Thw news.com.au article NASA spacecraft to fly over Australia during Earth Gravity Assist manoeuvre has some interesting graphics (shown below).

In the article is discussion of meteor cameras, and quotes from Professor Phil Bland of Curtin University in Western Australia, who:

is a member of the OSIRIS-REx science team and also leads an Australian group called the Desert Fireball Network, which, as he puts it, "tracks fireballs coming through the atmosphere.”

Question(s): How close will OSIRIS-REx get to Australia? Will it be bright enough to be seen by cameras used to record meteors? Is there any way quantitatively (gu)estimate the brightness as a sanity check here?

edit: I'll reiterate that. Can the satellite be be seen by cameras used to record meteors?

below: "The route OSIRIS-REx will take over Australia" From here. Source:Twitter (likely this OSIRISREx tweet)

enter image description here

below: "NASA says the fly-by will also give researchers a unique opportunity to observe our home planet." From here. Source:Twitter

enter image description here


Yes, if you have a telescope or really good set of binoculars. The article you linked even states this:

“It’s not going to be visible to the naked eye, but really any amateur astronomer with a half decent telescope should be able to do it,” the professor said. “Or a big lens on a regular camera like a telephonic lens, they should be able to pick it up and see it themselves.”

The altitude is 20,000 km, give or take. That is about how high the GPS satellite constellation is, and is a bit bigger. The brightness will be about 10, per http://www.heavens-above.com/OsirisFlyby.aspx?lat=-26.7456&lng=120.5859&loc=Unspecified&alt=-4262&tz=WAST

Bottom line is, if you have a telescope and know exactly where to point it, you can see it. Otherwise, it's not that likely.

  • $\begingroup$ "Is there any way quantitatively (gu)estimate the brightness as a sanity check here?" I'm questioning the article as an authoritative source. Can you back this up? Not just looking for a reiteration of the news.com.au article. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 13 '17 at 0:32
  • $\begingroup$ heavens-above.com/OsirisFlyby.aspx estimated brightness of 10 or so at the brightest. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Sep 13 '17 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ That is a prediction for 0N, 0W, at 5PM local=GMT(?) time, elevation 9 degrees. The question is about the visibility from Australia. At night Or is your link showing something different to me than it is to you? I'm not used to the interface. i.stack.imgur.com/bKxlb.png and i.stack.imgur.com/ZySmq.png $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 13 '17 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ The brightness is basically the same, the main difference is the angles. I put in an Australian location with similar brightness values. This is also about what I would have guessed. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Sep 13 '17 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ Your answers are often top-notch, well researched, and rock solid! This one is more of a "take my word for it" kind of response. Since the flyby is fast, and constantly changing it's distance with respect to various points around the globe, a distance to a point on one side of the Earth is not representative of a distance to a point on the opposite side of the Earth at different time. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 13 '17 at 0:49

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