Space News
space history and artifacts articles

Messages
space history discussion forums

Sightings
worldwide astronaut appearances

Resources
selected space history documents

Websites
related space history websites

  collectSPACE: Messages
  Mercury - Gemini - Apollo
  Apollo in lunar orbit seen from the Earth

Post New Topic  Post A Reply
profile | register | preferences | faq | search

next newest topic | next oldest topic
Author Topic:   Apollo in lunar orbit seen from the Earth
Ian Limbrey
Member

Posts: 31
From: England
Registered: Nov 2012

posted 11-06-2012 03:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ian Limbrey   Click Here to Email Ian Limbrey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The night before Apollo 15 landed, I trained my telescope on Mare Crisium hoping to see the sunlight reflecting of Endeavour and Falcon as they came round from the dark side of the moon. After about 20 minutes of waiting I saw a very sharp flash of reflected sunlight just above the lunar horizon near Mare Crisium which could only be Apollo 15.

I have spoken to several Apollo astronauts about this sighting, including Al Worden who was unaware of this ever being seen before. Surely other people (with telescopes) have seen this sight on other missions? I would be interested to know.

Headshot
Member

Posts: 547
From: Streamwood, IL USA
Registered: Feb 2012

posted 11-06-2012 06:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What you observed might have been a specular reflection of sunlight from one of the spacecraft's windows. Such phenomena were observed and even photographed during Apollo 8's and 10's trips to the moon. Accounts of this are given in NASA SP 201 and 232.

I do not recall any such flashes being observed from a manned spacecraft in orbit around the moon and reported to Sky and Telescope, an amateur astronomy magazine that ran articles about observing Apollo spacecraft in transit to the moon, during the late '60s and early '70s.

The Lunar Orbiter V spacecraft was photographed while in orbit around the moon. But a 60" telescope was used and the spacecraft was specially positioned so as to present the maximum difuse reflection of sunlight from its solar panels back to Earth. The LO spacecraft did not have windows that could provide the much brighter specular reflections.

micropooz
Member

Posts: 1363
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 11-06-2012 06:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a kid, I remember one of the TV networks at the time (ABC, NBC, or CBS) lining up a camera with an observatory telescope to see the flash from one of the Apollo flights in orbit around the Moon. I can't remember the flight, network, or observatory. But it didn't work, for what it's worth...

robsouth
Member

Posts: 748
From: West Midlands, UK
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 11-13-2012 10:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone have a copy of the photo of the Lunar Orbiter V spacecraft in lunar orbit?

Headshot
Member

Posts: 547
From: Streamwood, IL USA
Registered: Feb 2012

posted 11-13-2012 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The photo (which just shows Lunar Orbiter V as a streak near an overexposed portion of the lunar limb), was taken by some of the staff working at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona.

I first saw it in a Sky and Telescope magazine article that appeared sometime in late '67 or early '68, but before the July '68 issue.

A portion of it also appeared on page 48 of The Moon In The Post-Apollo Era by Zdenek Kopal (1974, D. Reidel Publishing Company).

robsouth
Member

Posts: 748
From: West Midlands, UK
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 11-13-2012 12:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Telescopic Tracking of Lunar Orbiter V Around the Moon

Headshot
Member

Posts: 547
From: Streamwood, IL USA
Registered: Feb 2012

posted 11-14-2012 07:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The image on the site is a cropped view of what is shown in Kopal's book.

There was at least one image in the Sky and Telescope article that showed much more of the original picture, which also included the moon's limb. If my memory is correct, the reproduction in S&T was noticeably better than what is in Kopal's book and the Lunar Orbiter Tracking website.

Ian Limbrey
Member

Posts: 31
From: England
Registered: Nov 2012

posted 02-21-2016 03:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ian Limbrey   Click Here to Email Ian Limbrey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is a topic that I posted a couple of years ago but I have had no positive response from others regarding the sighting of Apollo spacecraft seen in lunar orbit from Earth.

Has anybody heard of any amateur astronomers seeing a similar sight from any of the Apollo missions?

Space Cadet Carl
Member

Posts: 116
From: Lake Orion, Michigan
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 02-21-2016 06:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I clearly remember CBS News trying to grab a live shot of Apollo 8 circling the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968. It may have been Jordell Bank Observatory in England, which had CBS correspondents there. The attempt did not work.

schnappsicle
Member

Posts: 289
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Jan 2012

posted 02-23-2016 07:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In 1967, I got a telescope for Christmas. A year later, I trained my small telescope on the moon hoping to catch a glimpse of Apollo 8 as it came around the eastern limb. I went outside and waited 3 times as it came around from the back side and saw nothing. The telescope I had showed roughly half of the moon in the eyepiece. I assumed it was not powerful enough to show me what I wanted to see, so I never tried it again.

In the mid 70's, I witnessed numerous satellites circling the earth with my naked eye which made me wonder if I gave up too soon. After all, the next 8 Apollo missions all went to the moon with a Lunar Module. The added size and reflective capabilities of the foil on the LM descent stage might have been enough to give me a small glimpse.

I'm not sure how many satellites we have circling the moon now, but it would be interesting to train a telescope on it to see if any of the current crop of lunar orbiters cast a spark in the lunar sky.

Ian Limbrey
Member

Posts: 31
From: England
Registered: Nov 2012

posted 02-23-2016 08:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ian Limbrey   Click Here to Email Ian Limbrey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The telescope that I used (and still have) was a three inch refractor and had installed the best lens that I had which was a 6mm which gave a great view of Mare Crisium on the northeast rim of the Moon as I knew Apollo 15 was in a high latitude orbit due to the Hadley landing site. Almost gave up after 20 minutes but suddenly saw a very sharp flash of light lasting no more than 2 seconds approaching Mare Crisium. It was either Apollo 15 or a UFO!

oly
Member

Posts: 86
From: Perth, Western Australia
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 02-23-2016 08:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How many orbital satellites are there circling the moon today?

SaturnV
Member

Posts: 11
From: Fowler, Ohio, USA
Registered: Sep 2013

posted 02-23-2016 08:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SaturnV   Click Here to Email SaturnV     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ian Limbrey:
Has anybody heard of any amateur astronomers seeing a similar sight from any of the Apollo missions?
Well, I heard of a potential sighting but not from an amateur astronomer. When I was in the 9th grade (back in 1975), a girl I had a crush on found out I was an amateur astronomer so she asked me a question about what you are interested in. She said that during Apollo 11 her family looked at the moon several times with their telescope and once when she was at the eyepiece she saw a little faint point of light right next to the limb. She had been wondering ever since if it was the actual spacecraft she had seen and wanted my opinion. At the time I never thought of solar reflection from the CM or LM window and told her probably not, it would just be too faint to begin with and glare from the bright lunar limb would make it even more difficult. Only instance I ever heard of until I read your post.

As an aside too much should not be made of her claim that it was the Apollo 11 mission. I have found over the years that to people that are not followers of the space program ALL lunar missions are "Apollo 11". Also, at this late date I cannot remember if she said the little pinpoint of light was steady or if it was a flash.

Glint
Member

Posts: 893
From: New Windsor, Maryland USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 02-23-2016 12:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SaturnV:
...at the eyepiece she saw a little faint point of light right next to the limb
I would say most likely a faint field star. Especially if the star remained relatively stationary. That is, on the order of around a minute as due to the motion of the moon itself the field star would eventually move relative to it.

Is she still available for comment?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 34097
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-23-2016 01:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by oly:
How many orbital satellites are there circling the moon today?
Three: NASA's ARTEMIS P1, ARTEMIS P2 and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Space Cadet Carl
Member

Posts: 116
From: Lake Orion, Michigan
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 02-23-2016 01:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In regard to my earlier post, Jodrell Bank Observatory in England only does radio astronomy, so it wasn't them making the sighting attempt. However, I do know for sure CBS News did try to see Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968 using somebody's observatory and the attempt did not succeed.

SaturnV
Member

Posts: 11
From: Fowler, Ohio, USA
Registered: Sep 2013

posted 02-24-2016 01:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SaturnV   Click Here to Email SaturnV     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Glint:
Is she still available for comment?
No she is not available, in fact that was the only time she ever talked to me! I am aware it may have been a star about to undergo occultation but who knows.
quote:
Originally posted by Ian Limbrey:
Almost gave up after 20 minutes but suddenly saw a very sharp flash of light lasting no more than 2 seconds approaching Mare Crisium.
If you recorded the date and time of your flash you would be able to convert that to Mission Elapsed Time and I'm sure the resources are out there where you could determine where the CSM was located at that time.

Sure sounds to me that you glimpsed it, despite the fact that it was in front of the moon instead of off the limb (it would have to be a very bright flash to be visible in front of the moon... signal to noise ratio against the bright moon versus against the darker sky, etc.). In any case did you record the time and date?

Ian Limbrey
Member

Posts: 31
From: England
Registered: Nov 2012

posted 02-24-2016 02:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ian Limbrey   Click Here to Email Ian Limbrey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The flash point of light that I viewed through my telescope was against the blackness of space at the northeast outer rim of the moon and not in front of it as that would have been impossible! The date viewed was Thursday July 29th (day before the Falcon landed) and was viewed sometime between 9pm and 10pm (GMT) as it was a very clear evening in London!

I did mention this to Dave Scott when I met him in the UK in 2008 and he was most interested by my observation!

SaturnV
Member

Posts: 11
From: Fowler, Ohio, USA
Registered: Sep 2013

posted 02-24-2016 11:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SaturnV   Click Here to Email SaturnV     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay Ian I reread your post, when you mentioned Mare Crisium I thought you meant the flash was over it. Sorry, my mistake.

As an aside, 9-10PM GMT July 29 corresponds to 21:00-22:00 GMT July 29 correct? Were you aware their S-IVB impacted at 20:58:42 GMT that evening? The mission elapsed time for that was 79:24:43, if I'm reading the NASA page right. Of course that would not have been visible but it would not have stopped me from trying!

Ian Limbrey
Member

Posts: 31
From: England
Registered: Nov 2012

posted 02-25-2016 02:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ian Limbrey   Click Here to Email Ian Limbrey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess the S-IVB stage could have been visible (depending on it's trajectory) against the blackness of space but not prior to impact which I assumed would have been somewhere near the centre of the Moon to be detected by the 3 seismographs left by the previous missions.

All times are CT (US)

next newest topic | next oldest topic

Administrative Options: Close Topic | Archive/Move | Delete Topic
Post New Topic  Post A Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | The Source for Space History & Artifacts

Copyright 2016 collectSPACE.com All rights reserved.


Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47a





advertisement