Faculty of Mathematics, Physics
and Informatics
Comenius University in Bratislava

Reentry and disintegration of a rocket booster above Hawaii

A unique celestial event was captured by the AMOS systems at Haleakalā and Maunakea Observatories in Hawaii.


27. 10. 2020 21.00 hod.
By: Juraj Tóth

A unique celestial event was captured on October 24th 22:01 HST (25th 08:01:37 UTC) by the AMOS systems at Haleakalā and Maunakea Observatories in Hawaii.  The reentering rocket body CZ-3B R/B (2008-055B), used to launch VENESAT-1 in 2008, was visible as multiple rapidly moving bright lights crossing the entire night sky and leaving trails in their wake. The event was viewed and recorded by members of the public as well as the two AMOS all-sky video systems. A high-resolution spectral camera also captured a faint emission spectrum of the rocket parts as they burned up high above Earth’s surface. VENESAT-1 was the first Venezuelan satellite and was used for communications. The satellite was launched from Xichang in China on a Long March 3-stage 3B/E rocket into a geosynchronous orbit but has been in-operational since March 2020. 

Re-entry events resemble bright meteors, and are sometimes serendipitously detected by the sensitive AMOS systems which are operated by Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. Re-entry events of non-operational satellites and rocket boosters are relatively frequent, occurring three to four times per month, typically above the Pacific ocean where the population density is the lowest. The observations by AMOS are used for detection and analysis of meteors and fireballs to help astronomers understand the structure of the solar system. Operation of AMOS is possible thanks to the support of the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and SAO Submillimeter Array.

Short video

Contact
Dr. Juraj Tóth, Professor  & Vice-Dean for Science and Foreign Affairs
Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics
Comenius University
Mlynská dolina F1
842 48 Bratislava
Email: juraj.toth@fmph.uniba.sk