News Stories

Mystery Cloud

People living in the eastern part of the U.S. and Canada sawwho went outside at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, August 31, saw astrange, bright, silvery cloud of light that suddenlyappeared. It lasted for about half an hour, then graduallyfaded. It may have accounted for UFO reports from that area,but it was actually a satellite launch vehicle dumping itsfuel.

Joe Rao writes in space.com that New York amateur astronomerJohn Bortle first reported the sighting. In another part ofNew York, Bill Bogardus and his wife saw the cloud anddescribe it as "?about the size of the moon?It was aroundish, yet not all that round, object drifting towardsour location very slowly, slower that most satellitesbecause it took at least twenty minutes to move from wherewe first saw it..."

It turns out that NASA was responsible: It was a fuel dumpof the Centaur launch stage of the NRO-1 satellite that waslaunched from Cape Canaveral late that Tuesday afternoon.Dumping excess fuel occurs in all Centaur-booster assistedlaunches after spacecraft separation. Since it happened justafter nightfall, the cloud of fuel was still lit by thesetting sun.

A fuel dump in space? That's nothing compared to what wenton inLab257! (and now you can get it onsale)!

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