NEAR sighting.

Jim Scotti (jscotti@LPL.Arizona.EDU)
Fri, 23 Jan 1998 00:32:16 -0700 (MST)

NEAR was scheduled to glint briefly in Tucson tonight at 06:39:10 UT as
its beam traveled from Texas to the LA area (no dwell on Tucson), so I
prepared to observe it with my 10x50 binocs and naked eye.  I started
looking at about 06:10 using Uranometria charts and an ephemeris from the
Minor Planet Center web site.  It took several minutes to be sure I was on
the right field and of course to keep up with the motion of the object.  I
finally spotted NEAR when it brightened briefly at about 06:27 UT to about
6th magnitude.  It faded soon thereafter back to about magnitude 8-9 and I
continued to follow it sporadically - finding it then scribbling on the
chart the location and estimated brightness.  It stayed consistently
between magnitude 8 and 9 when I re-acquired it each time, but it's
possible it faded below my threshold in between when I looked back at the
field to find it.  At about 6:36, I noted it to be magnitude 9.  At about
6:38:30, I saw it start to slowly brighten, up to about magnitude 5 in
binocs before I dropped the binocs to look with my unaided eye.  I watched
as it peaked at about magnitude +2 for a total of about 3-5 seconds before
fading back down to magnitude 8-9.  It stayed visible to my unaided eye
for a total of about 20 seconds.  I didn't accurately time the glint, but
I would say it happened within less than 5 seconds of the predicted time. 
I re-acquired it again at about 6:42 and estimated it to be magnitude 9,
then I retreated into my house to warm up.... 


Jim Scotti                              
Lunar & Planetary Laboratory 
University of Arizona                520/621-2717 
Tucson, AZ 85721 USA