LVAAS - THE LEHIGH VALLEY AMATEUR ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY: Promoting, Facilitating and Teaching Astronomy Since 1957
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Friday, October 18 2019 @ 09:40 am EDT

High Altitude Balloon

 

 Is That Saturn?

It seemed too bright, and too early for Saturn to be so clearly visible! Once it was brought into focus by Chris Kiely in LVAAS' 12" Newtonian Reflector, it turned out to be a very beautiful high-altitude balloon, hanging in the sky like a Christmas tree ornament, a rare special treat for visitors to our Star Party on Saturday, October 5.

A later search on flightradar24 indicated that it was most likely HBAL024, an experimental balloon for providing Internet service belonging to Loon LLC, formerly a Google X project. It was launched from Winnemucca, NV on Wednesday afternoon, and drifting at 16 kts at an altitude of 67,800 ft. over Plymouth Meeting, PA, easily visible from our South Mountain HQ.

This shaky, almost-focused photo was taken by Rich Hogg's smartphone held up to the eyepiece. The image shown is how it would look to the naked eye; in the telescope it was turned upside-down.

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