June 17, 2019

06.02.11- A “Sail-Flare” Contest!

I have wanted to give a shout out to a cool contest that came to our attention a few weeks back, and this weekend seemed as good a time as any. Last month, NanoSail-D2, everyone’s favorite solar sail test-bed in low Earth orbit, stunned the satellite-spotting community with its amazing comeback.

Now, the contest is on as NASA and Spaceweather.com have invited YOU, the backyard satellite imaging public, to catch an image of NanoSail-D. You may have the gear lying around needed to catch it tonight; a simple, well-aimed time exposure during a pass will show the trail of the satellite against the background of stars. Amateurs worldwide have already caught the solar sail, and US east coast observers will be back in the game come February 23rd as NanoSail-D begins a series of good illuminated twilight passes. Be creative; the kind of stuff that that gets Spaceweather’s attention tends to incorporate unique foregrounds or perspectives. Practicing on brighter targets such as the International Space Station will hone your skills; for prediction passes, Heavens-Above is your best bet. No doubt, a few astro-imagers may be globetrotting as we speak, attempting to catch the tiny 10×10 meter sail in front of the Moon or Sun. There’s a 500$ grand prize and 300$ first and $100 second prize, and the real reward might just be the publicity that the winners generate. The contest will continue until NanoSail-D re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere sometime this spring. Good luck, and may the best astrophoto(s) win!



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