Early Stardust Visual Observations and Weather Reports

1:57am PST (video), Greenville, CA, Robert Grate, Comments: Orange gold in color. Oblong shape. Observed for 4-5 seconds.

1:57am PST (visual), El Dorado Hills, CA, Wanda Schuman, Comments: It was a small, bright white light without a trail.

McKinleyville, CA (visual), Steve McIlraith, Comments: just glimpsed the light as it went down in the eastern sky. 30 deg above the horizon, looked yellow, went behind a cloud, then re-appeared and changed to reddish color, then went below horizon. 

1:56:58 PST (visual), Rio Linda, CA, Caroline Johnson, Comments: in the Northern skies at about 22 degrees above the horizon, completely viewable in Rio Linda (outside of Sacramento, CA). 

44.0310 N 123.0970 W (visual), amcgraw, Comments: It was bright and looked pinkish/orange.

Susanville, CA (visual), Dr. Owen Bateson, Comments: clouded out

1:58 PST, Lafayette, CA (visual), W Sanders, Comments: I saw it - just barely! I started intently in the region of Cassiopeia, which I could just make out in the moon glow and urban haze (I could not see the Little Dipper.) It never appeared there. At about 11:58 I looked further east and just made it out for about 10 seconds as it scooted fast about 5 degrees above the NE horizon where I have an unobstructed but light-polluted view. It was fast! Much faster than a normal satellite but slower than a natural meteor. It had a reddish color, maybe because it was so low down on the horizon, and varied in brightness a little. At one point it appeared pure red for an instant. Magnitude about 3 or so, a little dimmer than Polaris for the few seconds I saw it.

1:48:47am PST (video), West Sacramento, CA, Rueben M Miranda, Comments: The video only captured a dim moving light about 3/4 way into the video. The first sight was at 1:58:47 AM PST (I must have missed the first few seconds), and disappeared eastward at 1:59:23 AM PST.

Gilroy, CA (camera), Paul Kohlmiller, Comments: Fast-moving yellow light crossing N to NE. Took 3 minute exposure on film camera using zoom lens. Appeared much faster than a satellite but not as fast as a meteor.

Grants Pass, OR (visual), Ben, Comments: sky obscurred by dense, low clouds

Davis, CA (visual), David Takemoto-Weertsq (visual), Comments: Under clear skies, I saw Stardust, right on time. I estimate that I had it in sight for about 40 seconds. I first caught sight of it just east of due north. It was orange-red, bright, but not brilliant. It was about as bright as Arcturus (about 0 mag.). I thought I may have seen something come off of it when I first glimpsed it, but I'm not sure. After that, nothing was seen coming off. Brightness seemed to vary slightly. It disappeared into clouds very low on the ENE horizon.

Las Vegas, CA (visual), J. Alan Johnson, Comments: at 0956Z looking north from top floor of apartment building near Stratosphere Tower, the Stardust appeared. Object was visible as a yellow-orange glow, much brighter than expected, at less than ten degrees above horizon. Duration of observation was approximately twenty seconds, at which point the object faded in intensity as it lost altitude.


Elburz, NV (visual), Letty Vega, Comments: We had a very small break in the clouds, and had a 4-6 second view of the Stardust capsule. We were unable to here the sonic boom, possibly because of the high winds. We were approx. 23 miles northeast of Elko and the capsule was very bright and fast.

Chico, CA (visual), Dr. Michael J. Joyce, D.C., Comments: I witnessed an object enter the atmosphere, streak across the Northern California sky - falling, dropping and shrinking over the Sierras so rapidly, as if thrown over a cliff. The dull red-orange ball, not yet fiery flaming was moving so fast

Frederick L. Manuel Granite Bay, CA: First saw Stardust due north of here, just to right of Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia was partly covered by cloud at the time. Stardustwas moving fairly fast to the east. Color was bright yellow-orange. Estimated magnitude 0 to -1. Stardust reentry should have been very obvious to anyone witha clear, cloudless view to the north from this location. My guess at altitude was approximately 20 degrees above horizion. Stardust was observed for approximately
7 seconds. Stardust observed traveling to east and started varying in brightnessas it got closer to the horizon to the northeast. No luminous trail left behindit, that I could see from this location. Moon was bright, but Stardust was very visible.

Mike Cardwell Sacramento, CA (near Truxel Road just N/O I-80): The capsule appeared exactly on time - ca. 1:57 PST (per GPS clock).
We observed it for ca. 3 sec. from ca. due N until it was obscured by clouds in  eastern sky - don't know if it wasn't luminous farther west or we just didn't spot it right away (but I think we would have). It's appearance was like a bright but slightly yellowish star (sky, between clouds, was quite clear due to recent storm) traveling very fast but without any indication of a luminous tail. It was much brighter than any background stars but not as bright as Venus in a clear sky just after twilight. Could have been mistaken for an airplane (landing lights, not strobe) passing several km away if it's velocity had not been so great.


Jay Littlefield, San Jose, CA: I missed the initial entry point, but captured the capsule re-entry though some trees. GPS used with seconds counted off during video in audio. Used a Sony Handycam HCR-DC90 with manual exposure and focus. 

Don Machholz, Dutch Flat, CA: Seen by George Robinson, Bob Lochmiller and myself under scattered cloudy skies. Max elev, 22 degrees. Moving rapidly, appeared red, then orange in color. Observed with NE and 7x35 binoculars. Seen for a total of 28 seconds.

Letty Vega, Elburz, NV: We had a very small break in the clouds,and had a 4-6 second view of the Stardust capsule. While we were getting snowed on. We were unable to here the sonic boom, possibly because of the high winds. We were approx. 23 miles northeast of Elko and the capsule was very bright and fast. PRETTY COOL

Rick Baldridge, Redding,CA: Took three videos and at least for 35mm still camera photos using ISO 800 film (24, 28 and 35mm lenses). Very fast -- about twice at fast as Shuttle re-entries but slower than a meteor. Dull red at first, then got a brighter orange, reaching about 0-magnitude as it descended toward Lassen Peak as viewed from our location. Sky was totally clear. Took three calibration shots before and after re-entry of star fields.

Marek Cichanski, Redding, CA & others (TAC Observing Reports)


Bill Kissam, Pine Valley, UT: I was able to take three (3) 1.0 second exposures. Heavy clouds, intermittent rainy / snowy weather... So I didn't think I would get anything. I didn't set up a tripod and I almost didn't take my camera outside! At time of re-entry, we were discussing whether we would even see a "glow" from above the clouds 180 miles away. While looking north-west, I saw what I thought was an aircraft moving very fast... I then realized I was seeing the reentry & quickly propped my camera on the railing and fired off three camera shots. I think I saw a part of the reentry path, near 340 degrees, in a break in the clouds...?

Tad Hocking, Redding,CA: Thanks for the show and the science, I am sharing my video with my middle school science classes. From my vantage point in Northern California the re-entry was observed as a reddish orange spot moving in a west to east direction. I followed it until it disappeared below the horizon. From my observation point it never developed a tail but the intensity of the glow did increase the longer it was in view. My video of the return is very short about 10-15 seconds as it took a few seconds for me to see it then boot up the record on the digital video camera. Thanks again Tad Hocking Science teacher Happy Camp Elem. School.

Garon Salway, Coyote Spring Valley, Nevada (Highway 93, 43 miles north of I-15) : Due to our location, elevation of SRC re-entry was fairly low on the horizon, about 6.3 degrees above artificial horizon, but high enough to be seen above actual horizon. SRC was first seen shortly after 01:57, and was easily visible.  Unfortunately, view to the north was partially obscured by wispy clouds. Fortunately, most of the SRC re-entry was visible to us in a break between clouds. Best of all, I observed the event with my two oldest children.

"Canopus56" Highway 93 SW of Wendover (link)