UFO UpDates
A mailing list for the study of UFO-related phenomena
'Its All Here In Black & White'
Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Dec > Dec 4

Re: Skylab 3

From: James Smith <lunartravel.nul>
Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2007 11:03:58 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
Archived: Tue, 04 Dec 2007 14:34:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Skylab 3

>From: Brad Sparks <RB47x.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2007 02:10:14 EST
>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

>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.

I was addressing the point that your web page made:

"Few satellites (if any) other than the Skylab have been
launched into 50 degree orbits."

My statement based on examining the launch data quantifies the
number. It was irrelevant if they were still on orbit during
Skylab since we are just talking about if they were _launched_
into that particular inclination. So, depending upon the
accuracy of the inclination you either have none or lots.

>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.

>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??

From what I have gleaned about this kind of data, the problems
lie in the type of object and its orbit phase. If it is just
typical large satellite in typical orbit, then it can be
predicted fairly well. However, if it is some sort of object
with only periodic orbital data (infrequent radar reflections
due to object size or shape) then such predictions may be more
difficult. If the object is not-radar reflective, then they
could not predict anything. The radar fence is only in the U.S.,
so they can't monitor all satellites and debris positions
continuously. They can only hope to get data during a pass
through the fence. Also, predictions are really poor for the
period of days before re-entry.

>>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.

A point I was making here was that someone viewing the before
and after pictures on the web page might get the impression that
they were taken within minutes of the UFO pictures. Although
Skylab 3 may have been over Ontario (I have not checked
this)around 1800 GMT, it passes over that area many times. One
would have to go through the photo index and match the scenes
with the orbit track to be able to narrow the time frame down.
Same goes for the laser experiment, although it would be nice if
they had the times they tried to do it written somewhere.

>>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.

The laser images I have seen from this experiment


[a .pdf]

are pretty wretched. But then it looks like a scan of a b/w
copy. The originals probably looked nice but the copies look
like a dark image with stars (city lights?). I already said it
didn't make sense for them to make a big deal about filming an
object when they really knew it was a laser. It just is an
interesting coincidence.

Anyway, when I examined the Skylab Mission Report it says the
laser observations were on Sept 19 and 20. So this confirms the
UFO photo event as being Sept 20. Oddly, the separate laser
experiment report definitely stated the Skylab 3 laser photos
were on Sept 4, 1973.

>>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.

My intent on stating that the photos immediately before were
taken not zero-2 minutes before the UFO sequence was to alert
folk to the fact that they were not of the Earth near the
orbital position of Skylab during the UFO sequence. If the two
frames of a magazine of film from this laser experiment were
_supposed_ to use 300mm lens, then that would tend to imply the
300mm lens for the UFO frames. You are right though that given
the period of time, it is still possible to change lenses. It is
not conclusive, just suggestive.

>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?

I am assuming sequential frames of a magazine imply the same
camera with the only option being different lenses. Correct me
if I am wrong. The laser images are SL3-118-2136, 2137 (magazine
CX-35). According to the photo guide the two SL3-125-2818, 2819
have the two successful laser images from magazine CX-34. Maybe
the Skylab mission voice transcripts could elucidate.

>>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.

I prefer the voice transcript confirmation to their time
recollection. But since the mission report indicates the laser
photos were taken on Sept 19/20, then that may be enough
confirmation that it wasn't 7-10 days before 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 I meant was the transcript of the actual crew voice data:
"Air-to-ground voice transcriptions and on board voice
transcriptions for Skylab 2, Skylab 3 and Skylab 4" NASA-TM-X-
72205 Microfilm records. The data are contained on ten 16
millimeter reels.

What Bruce showed, and I appreciate, was the Post Mission

>>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.

When he says "about", then one needs to quantify "about". I
assumed that since he did not know exactly the time then you
must throw in a plus or minus error bar on it. His causal
description of the time makes me want to add and subtract 1 rev.
If he said "it _was_ 3 revs", then that would be different.
Likely it is less than +- 1rev but who knows? Earlier revs still
place them above the Indian Ocean.

Also, as I said, while Oberg maybe did a great job on the
transcript, I prefer to see the actual voice transcription for
Skylab. Too bad it doesn't exist on the web.

Just a nit, but the Skylab landed on Sept 25, 1973 at 22:49GMT
and the UFO photos according to Oberg were supposed to be at
Sept 20 16:45. This is not "within 5 days of returning to

>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.

Not really the end of story. 3 revs +-5 minutes or 3 revs +- 1
rev? But it doesn't matter since I couldn't find any
satellite/debris that were near with either one, using the
elements available.

>>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?

Satellite Tool Kit.

Orbital elements are available at:


You can use SpaceTrack too, the elements are the same for the
stuff that far back.

>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

I'll have to pull together the list for you. Its the Skylab
debris that sometimes got "close" (but then would not be close
for a long while). The one re-entry debris I had mentioned had
pretty poor elements, it re-entered on Sept 20 but its last
element was 34 days prior to its re-entry (Aug 17)! Also, this
one object had the worse orbital elements, only 2, the others
had lots. The first element was for Aug 8, then the last Aug 17.
How they predicted re-entry for such a sparse orbital element
set is beyond my understanding.

>>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."

Yes, you make sense. I'll have to think about this. The other
thing to consider is that the degraded re-entry orbit may place
it near Skylab,but prior to actual burn-up/glow. No way to say.

>>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.

Do you have a reference for this? I mean when does "glow" start
and how long it takes till it hits the ground.

>>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


Skylab 3 Photographic Index And Scene Identification

Skylab 2 Photographic Index And Scene Identification

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



[ Next Message | Previous Message | This Day's Messages ]
This Month's Index |

UFO UpDates Main Index

UFO UpDates - Toronto - Operated by Errol Bruce-Knapp

Archive programming by Glenn Campbell at Glenn-Campbell.com