A number of astrophographers in Europe noted a faint, unexpected intruder in their images - among them was Waldemar Skorupa. In his image shown above, a faint, long trail of an unknown object can be seen northeast (upper-left) of the comet, west (right) of the Pleiades cluster. A check of the position of the fast moving object against artificial satellites and known asteroids came up empty. Fortunately, Skorupa provided a set of three exposures with the mysterious trail, so Bill Gray was able to calculate a reliable orbit for that object. It turned out to be a satellite or upper stage rocket booster left in a geostationary transfer orbit, a rather eccentric orbit (e=0.724), with a low perigee (~350km above the Earth's surface) and a apogee in the geostationary ring, about 36.000km high. The orbital period is 630 minutes, and the inclination of 28° points toward a spacecraft started in Cape Kennedy, which is situated at a latitude of 28°.
The image above is 4 minute exposures with a Canon EOS DSLR camera and a 200mm telephoto lens. Click on the image to see the full resolution image (3504 x 2336 pixels, 1.36 MB). To see more spectacular images of this comet (and others) by Waldemar Skorupa, visit www.schweifstern.de.