Help with a rocket spotted

Rocket go neyooom

Tbh tho I would say you’re lucky to see a rocket launch

It was lucky. I was pretty surprised. Not quite as shocked though as the first time I saw the SpaceX starlink satellite train before I had ever heard of it. Talk about shock at 4:30am!

fyi: I just added these news links which discuss the rocket identified. Maybe clears up some details:
It was declared lost and then later resurrected:

I now believe you were right and I was wrong about the visibility of plumes in a vacuum. Since the end of September I’ve exchanged emails with 3 different research scientists in related fields, as well as did a fair amount of online searching. And I was still left with an unfulfilled itch about the rocket sighting that didn’t make sense. But I just concluded a new exchange with the astrophysicist who founded and edits this report:

He was able to tell me the exact time of the Long March 3B Launch GTO engine burn, which coincided with the time of my observation. As the GTO was at LEO altitude, I now accept that the plume had to be in vacuum. It had to be kilometres in size, and he stated that made sense - sunlight scattering off the gas, which expands very rapidly in the vacuum.

Thanks for allowing me to bounce ideas off you!

They don’t call it INFINITE FLIGHT for nothing…


I know I’m a bit late to this, but what time did you see this? Kinda looks like the twilight effect you would get at a sunset/sunrise launch. That would certainly explain why it is so visible.

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Thanks for asking! In Jonathan McDowell’s reply to me he stated: “Yes, the GTO burn would have been from 0841 to 0844 UTC on Sep 27.”

So that was 6:41 to 6:44pm or local time, just after sunset.

What only dawned on me later is that I think he meant start and stop time of the burn.

If so, that means I may have been right to be obsessively puzzled:

I had to be along the trajectory, at a precise distance from the launch site (8,600km), and looking up at the sky during the 3 minutes that the GTO burn occurred!! And it had to be at the time of day when the plume would show up in the fading twilight!

And further, I would have to be in enough disbelief to keep asking the question.

It’s still hard to believe. It may as well have been a UFO, the chances were so small!

I hadn’t planned to go for a walk that day…

And one more improbable: I wouldn’t have found McDowell’s tweet (to track him down) if the rocket hadn’t both failed to reach final orbit, plus subsequently been resurrected from it’s failure. No one else had been able to sufficiently answer the question, with data and all.

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