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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Dec > Dec 4

Re: Skylab 3

From: James Smith <lunartravel.nul>
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2007 14:08:31 -0500 (EST)
Archived: Tue, 04 Dec 2007 14:21:22 -0500
Subject: Re: Skylab 3

>From: Bruce Maccabee <brumac.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2007 14:27:36 -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

>>>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.

>Thanks for your extensive comments. What you have discussed is
>mostly related to the orbital mechanics and the question, could
>there have been some manmade object in an orbit so close to that
>of the Skylab as to be seen for up to ten minutes and which
>would make an image with the angular size as large as in the
>last photo (assuming a 300 mm lens) and which would disappear
>from view about 5 sec after the Skylab went into shadow (an
>event that led Garriott to conclude that the object was about 38
>km behind the Skylab) yet which would not be observed during any
>other orbit or would not be detected by any of the radar
>tracking stations?

I have not gone through your photo analysis in detail. I can't
refute your work if that is what you mean and haven't tried to.

You mentioned the object in orbit and I tried to address as best
I could. No large/giant objects were in the orbital elements for
that inclination.

>You have made only a brief comment on the most photographically
>obvious aspect of the images obtained, namely that they are red.
>(In one frame the light was bright red enough to overexpose the
>film causing a yellowish center of the red "dot" image.)
>According to Garriott this object was first seen (and
>photographed?) as much as 10 minutes before Skylab went into
>orbit, in other words, before Skylab and the object were in the
>"thin" orbital region where atmospheric reddening fo the sun
>could make a reflection look red (although I doubt that such a
>reflection would be as clearly red as shown in the photos).
>Therefore if it was "anywhere near" skylab 10 minutes before the
>shadow its red could have come from only two possibilities: (a)
>it was painted red and reflected only red light or (b) it was a
>source of red light.

>You have addressed this color issue briefly as follows:

>>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).

>It seems to me that one big problem with assuming that a the
>object was a source of red light by virtue of being heated by
>the atmosphere is that this "meteor" version of the hypothesis
>does not explain how Skylab could have seen it for ten minutes
>before Skylab crossed the shadow boundary. If it were seen as it
>reentered, it would have been below the Skylab and there should
>have been some evidence of an earth background unless it was
>seen after both it and the Skylab had gone into the shadow so
>that the background was the unilluminated earth as opposed to a
>black background, which is consistent with the camera pointing
>away from the earth. Also, the size plays a role in this. If it
>were a meter sized object, for example it had to be within 1
>m/(.0029 rad) = 345 m of the Skylab as it glowed and that would
>place the Skylab in a "crash and burn" orbit some 6(?) years
>before it actually did Crash and Burn (where 0.0029 is the
>angular separation between the furthest separated red "blob"
>images of the fourth photo). Also, being that close to the
>Skylab would mean that it would enter the shadow at essentially
>the same time.

The Earth background being missing is a good point I failed to
consider. It seems to eliminate the re-entry glow idea, although
I still have to think about it.

>>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.

>Strange that they would attempt to photograph the red laser
>while the earth was in sunshine. The red beam would have a lot
>of light to compete with. The photo you mention does not look
>like a red filtered image which would likely be used if one were
>to try to detect a red laser beam against a bright background. I
>could imagine them trying the Goddard laser experiment when the
>earth surface was dark. Then they wouldn't need a red filter.
>But then there would also be no image of the surface such as we
>see in 2137.

All I know about this is the description of the scene in the
photo index and the laser experiment.

"Evaluation of SKYLAB Earth LASER Beacon Imagery"

"Experiment Debrief"

"Bean: The laser was the only thing that I saw during the
mission that had a neon-light look to it... This actually
radiated like a neon light that's on in the daytime outside. It
has a brilliance to it."

Query: The second set of photos that we blew up we found
on the filmstrip, but they didn't come out; they were
underexposed. If I looked at the records correctly, they were
approximately an f/4.5 and the others were approximately a f/8.
They were also blurry so there might have been some movement
although the shutter speed was 1/500 of a second."


"On Skylab 3, Astronauts Bean and Lousma confirmed the beacon
size and shape manifested in the Skylab 3 imagery. They
described the beacon as both a neon tube lying in the plane of
the earth and as a searchlight coming up through the atmosphere.
Strangely, the photographs were taken by Scientist-Astronaut
Garriott who did not verify the beacon size and shape, but
described the beacon as only a dot."

The second set were prior to the "UFO" set. I assume "neon"
means red, but maybe not.

>>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.

>Trash would have to be close - within hundreds of meters - if
>the disappearance was a result of going into shadow. But in this
>case there would be no 5 sec time lag, or even a 1 sec time lag.
>An alternate hypothesis explored on the web site is that the
>obejct was initially close and all four photos were taken at
>that time and then it drifted away and became progressively
>smaller and dimmer and then was about 38 km behind when it went
>into shadow. But if this were trash, as presumed, why wouldn't
>the astronauts have realized they were looking at something they
>had recently ejected?

Yes, this is true.

>And why would it appear red?

Don't know. Kind of rules it out unless wrapped in some odd
bag material prior to jettison.


>>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

>Again, if this was trash and if it disappeared by going into
>shadow then one has to explain

>(a) the color

>(b) the time lag of 5 or more seconds reported by Garriott who
>counted out the seconds until the object disappeared. (Evidently
>he had the impression that the object was following and not
>leading the Skylab)

I doubt the camera plus odd maybe attached hardware was close,
but given the poor orbital elements for that one particular
debris item, it is somewhat possible. That was the one I
suggested may have been heated up during some early phase of
reentry. Otherwise, unless it selectively reflected red, I can't
explain it. Review of the TV footage of the jettison of the
camera+ experiment might explain how it was wrapped.

>>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.

>Don't know anything about them.

I didn't mean to be amusing. It states it clearly in the photo
index as UFO. That's pretty clear for us all to notice. I
haven't seen anyone talk to the astronauts about this one, nor
any mention in debriefs. Is it a satellite or trash jettison or

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