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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Dec > Dec 1

Re: Skylab 3

From: James Smith <lunartravel.nul>
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 11:10:05 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
Archived: Sat, 01 Dec 2007 10:00:19 -0500
Subject: Re: Skylab 3

>From: Bruce Maccabee <brumac.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2007 15:53:10 -0500
>Subject: Skylab 3

>Alan Bean, Jack Lousma and Owen Garriott (the first scientist in
>space). It was more than 30 years ago, and it has taken me a
>long time (!) to complete the analysis and post this. But the
>data are still good.

>If you want to find an astronaut sighting of an unidentified
>space object - USO; this one was not submerged - then here you

>Comments welcome


The Skylab images seem peculiar and a relatively long duration
intersecting orbit with a satellite not very close to the Skylab
inclination would be highly unlikely.

Regarding your webpage, I have some comments...

Prior to Skylab, there were no launches we know about to 50
degrees inclination +-.05 degrees. However, there are a number
of satellites that were launched near that inclination
(excluding rocket bodies and debris): COSMOS 139 at 49.7 deg,
EXPLORER 8 at 49.88 deg, ANNA 1B and EOLE 1 (CAS-A) at 50.14
deg, EXPLORER 7 at 50.29 deg, COSMOS 546 at 50.65 deg, EXPLORER
44 (SOLRAD-10) at 51.06 deg, COSMOS 359 at 51.12 deg, COSMOS 50
at 51.23 deg.

Regarding the images before and after the UFO sequence,
according to the Skylab mission photo guide they are not
immediately before or after. The prior image #2137 is a blurred
attempted photo for the Goddard Laser Experiment which was aimed
at a Maryland region, considerably prior to the UFO photos. The
subsequent image #2142 is of "Lake Erie, Ohio, Ontario, clouds",
a much later time. I doubt the images actually are of the laser
beam (although the laser _was_ tested at red wavelengths),
mainly because I see no reason for the astronauts to mess up
their observations so much and that only two photos of the laser
beacon were officially taken during Skylab 2 on Sept 4, 1973,
which does not correspond with when they reported photographing
the odd object. One point of interest is that an interview of
the crew regarding the laser experiment showed that they used
the 300mm lens for it, so there seems to be a good likelihood
they kept the lens on for the subsequent "UFO" pictures.

Trash should be considered as a possible cause although it would
be small in size. Skylab had a trash jettisoning device/port
which was used frequently. Existing tracking data lists "debris"
for Skylab which could be trash, but it seems unlikely since the
trash bags would not have radar reflective material in/on them.
There were also reports of items being jettisoned from the much
larger scientific airlock which definitely were tracked.

Regarding the time period of the photos, it is odd that the crew
debriefing as shown in your web page lists the event occurring 7
to 10 days prior to landing, while Oberg was able to see from
transcripts that it was 5 days. Since the transcripts are not
available in electronic form for us to look at (only microfilm,
do you have a copy Mr. Sparks?) then we have to take Oberg's
word for it (who may be right, but it would be nice to get a
double check on this critical data). The transcript would seem
to be the best estimate for time. Even so, the statement in the
transcript indicates Lousma was not sure if it was 3 revs or 2
or 4 revs since Owens made no confirmation, so we can't state
definitively it is 16:30-16:40 GMT.

Space-Track has the orbital elements for a set of trackable
debris for Skylab as well as lots of other satellites during
that Sept 1973 time period. Such orbital elements have
limitations. You can calculate the position of a satellite using
this data, but if the date of the orbital elements are far from
the date you are interested in, the results may be very
inaccurate. This is especially true for very low, soon-to-re-
enter objects. Simply running what is available for objects +-5
degrees in inclination using Oberg's time period (+- 90 minutes)
show no objects within 100 km. If one looks at a period of +-7
days, then objects do get within 20 km occasionally for
respectable time periods.

The number of Skylab debris items was about 23. There are three
objects that re-enter in Sept 1973, so the orbital elements are
likely useless. One of these re-enters on Sept 20, 1973, the day
claimed for the odd photo. There is a possibility that this
particular object is low enough in altitude to get heated up and
glow red. Therefore, it could be self illuminated via heat
radiation. This could not explain why the object got dark upon
entering shadow unless there is fortuitous timing of the
object's disintegration. Another possibility is that it is
heating up and giving off gases/particles that catch the sun-
light, increasing its effective size. Then fade out would match
going in shadow.

I do not have a feel for how long such heating up and glowing
could occur (if even possible) but it would seem to take some
time (~10 minutes) if the objects are made of metal (rather than
how meteors generally rapidly burn up due to high angles they
enter the atmosphere with usually).

The size of the re-entering object is not clear. It was stated
to be a camera, which sounds small.

However, careful reading of the mission reports imply that there
was more to the object than a camera. They apparently jettisoned
on day 8 both a camera and its experiment out of the scientific
airlock. One would have to view TV coverage of the event
(reported to have been shown at the time) to know the size and
whether these objects were connected. The airlock is relatively

The only way to check the possibility/narrow the timing would be
to get the raw tracking data used by NORAD to generate the
orbital elements, which would consist of data over many orbits
which are analyzed/converted into the elements. However, I would
guess that they have thrown out this old data or not want to
share it in any event with the public.

Examination of the photo guidebook for Skylab 2 shows the
description for two photos to be "UFO" (SL2-102-893, SL2-102-
897). I have never seen them but have heard that the existing
copies are pretty dark and scratched so nothing may be viewable
on them.

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