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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Dec > Dec 2

Re: Skylab 3

From: Brad Sparks <RB47x.nul>
Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2007 02:10:14 EST
Archived: Sun, 02 Dec 2007 09:33:27 -0500
Subject: Re: Skylab 3

>From: James Smith <lunartravel.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 11:10:05 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
>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.

A slight correction as I was reminded that Harrison Schmitt of
Apollo 17 was the first scientist in orbit, just a few orbits
before lunar orbit insertion. However, Garriott was the first
scientist on an orbital mission (Schmitt's was a lunar mission).

>>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 link to our article has been changed to:


>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.

Thanks for the list but I'm not sure why it is really relevant.
For example, your first item Cosmos 139 was a Fractional Orbital
Bombardment System (FOBS) test that was de-orbited even before
finishing its first orbit on Jan 25, 1967, in order to avoid
violating the treaty banning the orbiting of space weapons. It
re-entered over Kapustin Yar. The associated upper stage and
adapter also re-entered on Jan 25, 1967. The Skylab 3 sighting
was in 1973.

The Cosmos 139 FOBS apogee was 130 miles so it would have been
over 140 miles below the Skylab 3 at 270+ miles height and thus
impossible to see, as well as never close enough to be the
measured 20-30 miles away as Garriott measured using the sun's
shadow entry.

The tiny Explorer 7 was launched in 1959 and had a perigee of
about 348 miles hence it could not have gotten closer than about
70 miles to Skylab 3 assuming the fairly high orbit had not
decayed much by 1973. It was too small to even consider having
been visible. The rocket upper stage was also launched into a
similar orbit, and was a much larger object (a few feet), but
was in a decaying orbit, re-entering in 1989. Maybe by 1973 its
perigee had dropped to within range of Skylab 3, but that would
not mean it was anywhere nearby.

Neither NORAD or NASA had any tracking projections of satellite
objects in close encounters with Skylab 3. They had 14 years of
orbital data and thus plenty of warning of any close approaches.
It was not something launched just a day or two before Skylab's
USO encounter on Sept 20, 1973.

Explorer 8 was the same size and launched in 1960 with a much
lower perigee of about 258 miles as was its rocket upper stage,
hence was within Skylab altitude range and again neither tracked
nor projected by NORAD or NASA anywhere nearby. The rocket stage
was decaying and re-entered in 1985.

Anyway, story is going to be the same in every case: Why didn't
NORAD track or project any close approaches to Skylab 3 with its
COMBO computer program and formal agreement with NASA to predict
and warn of all close approaches of satellites and space debris
throughout every manned NASA space mission??

>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'm not sure what significance "immediately before or after" and
"a much later time" have as far as being able to use the camera
lens data for the Nikon camera used. About an hour later at
around 1800 GMT the Skylab 3 was over Ontario.

>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.

Well "doubt" is far too understated. "Ridiculous" would be more
appropriate. The Skylab red USO photos show black space
background and no trace of the earth background of Maryland from
the Goddard Laser Experiment.

>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.

Yet you were just before this protesting that the "before" the
red USO and "after" shots were not "immediately before or
after." Can you make up your mind please? If you say there
"seems to be a good likelihood" that the astronauts kept the 300
mm lens on the Nikon from Sept 4 for two weeks till Sept 20 then
you seem to be saying it does not matter how long "before or
after." Please clarify.

There were 5 Nikons so how do you know that the Goddard Laser
photos are from the same Nikon? Do they have same serial numbers
(SL3-118-2136 and 2137??) or were they from a different series
indicating a different camera?

>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.

That is not a correct quote - Garriott said it was "about" a
week (<not> "7 ... days") or 10 days before the astronauts'
return to earth.

>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).

I don't understand. What difference does "electronic form" make?
Bruce transcribed the transcript so the text is searchable on
his website in our article, in "electronic form."

>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.

"Best estimate"??? There is nothing in the transcript where
astronaut Jack Lousma says he was not sure if it was "2 or 4
revs" ago. Lousma says it was "about 3 revs ago" in this
transcript from about 2106 GMT of Tape 263-10/T-671 Page 9 of
14/5207. Day 263 of 1973 was Sept 20. I don't see how you can
legitimately throw doubt on that.

From 2106 GMT "3 revs ago" or about 4-1/2 hours before, would be
about 1636 GMT. Ten minutes before sun shadow entry at 1645 GMT
makes the sighting from about 1635 to 1645 GMT. End of story.

>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.

What software did you use and which NORAD Spacetrack elsets did
you use? Which objects approached within 20 km of Skylab 3
within the week before and after Sept 20 and for how long? 10
minutes? If you have a list of such space objects and have the
elsets we can tell how recent the elsets data were and get an
idea how good the projected close approaches to Skylab 3. NORAD
said there had been no close approach warnings to manned
spacecraft as of 1973. A 12-mile close pass would be highly
significant and potentially dangerous - because tracking and
projection errors could mean the real distance was 0-km

>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.

Do you see any earth background in the Skylab red object photos?
Any trace of the earth's limb anywhere?? A re-entry occurs at
about 60-100 miles, far far below the Skylab at 273 miles

The earth's limb was about 1,400 miles away from Skylab's
height. The only way a 60-100-mile high re-entry could be viewed
from Skylab against a black space background if it was about
1,400 miles away. But the earth's limb would be visible
immediately below the re-entry about 2 to 4 degrees below and the
burning object would be progressively falling still lower.
Garriott said the red object was "well above the horizon."

>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).

Re-entries take 2-3 minutes, not 10 minutes, and travel nearly
horizontally about 600 to 900 miles - a movement not seen by the
Skylab astronauts or evidenced in the photos which do not show a
flaming streak.

>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.

Can you post a link to the Skylab photo guidebooks or supply

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