Falkland Island resident captures photo of GOCE satellite burning up

Nighttime photo of the Falkland Islands and southern South America taken by the Suomi NPP satellite. The lights in the Atlantic are from fishing boats. The GOCE satellite crashed into the ocean Sunday evening. Credit: NASA

The one-ton GOCE satellite burned up in the atmosphere over the Falkland Islands yesterday in the South Atlantic Ocean some 300 miles east of Argentina. Resident Bill Chater saw it happen and tweeted: “We saw it burn up from the Falklands at about 9.20 pm last night. Came from the South breaking up into bits. ”

“Driving southwards at dusk, it appeared with bright smoke trail and split in 2 before splitting again into more and going on north,” he added. While I’m still waiting on permission to run his photo that doesn’t mean you can’t see it right now.

Scientists at the European Space Agency are studying the photo and everything seems to check out as far as place, time and appearance. The picture shows a long thin contrail with an elongated bright cloud at its center. Any parts and pieces that survived re-entry will only be seen by those who swim in deep waters for a living.

6 thoughts on “Falkland Island resident captures photo of GOCE satellite burning up

  1. I still think that comet ISON could be the brightest comet of the century at perihelion. But a week later when it is up in a low, dark sky it will probably not be a lot brighter than Lovejoy. And being low in the sky, Lovejoy may appear a little brighter. Brightest comet of the century?, Possibly. But most people will probably not see it that way, unless it pulls a surprise, which is entirely possible.

    • Edward,
      Since we’re not 13 years into the century it wouldn’t be difficult for ISON to achieve this milestone. Even Lovejoy W3 was at least -3 mag. in Dec. 2011 and McNaught in 2007 hit -5.5 around perihelion. I remember observing it at mid-day very near the sun – a bright nuclear dot and short tail.

  2. I meant in the last 100 years. The brightest would be Ikeya- Seki, at least since 1935, on the list that I saw, putting it at magnitude -10. Speaking of McNaught. That was amazing. We were not suppose to able to see it at all in the north USA. I did not see it before sunset, but on 3 separate evenings shortly after sunset.It looked brighter than Venus. The tail was faint in the twilight, but sure showed up well in binoculars.

    • Edward,
      No problem. I thought you were referring to the current century. I try not to speculate too much on magnitudes of new comet arrivals like ISON for obvious reasons – it’s mostly guesswork.

  3. Hi are you currently in the faulklands , how’s the weather , i live in melbourne australia i am a very amataur astronomer , i have a 8 inch refractor which is adequqte for the solar system , my family was great freinds with Mr Kurt Gottleib from the mt stromlo observatory in canberra , he is now deceased, a great guy with endless knowledge and patience ,

    regards

    les

    • Hi Les,
      No I’m not from the Faulklands myself. I’m live a wee bit further north in Duluth, Minn. US. You must get fantastic views of the planets with your 8-inch refractor!

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