Museum curator and Japanese astronomer Daiichi Fujii spotted something irregular last September in several of the motion-sensing cameras he has installed: three bright green lights twinkling in the sky.
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After studying the images and comparing them to orbital data, Fuji found the responsible party: the Ice, Cloud and Earth Satellite 2, or ICESat-2, which flew over Japan that night.
According to Tony Martino, a satellite instrument specialist, this is the first time the team has seen images of the instrument’s laser pulsing in the sky.
“It looks like ICESat-2 was almost straight forward [Fujii]Martino at NASA said: launch. “To see a laser, you have to be in exactly the right place, at the right time, and you have to have the right conditions.”
ICESat-2 It was launched in 2018 and is used to measure the height of Earth’s surfaces. It is basically a spatial system lidar digitizerSimilar to those used by archaeologists for Discover ancient sites lost due to natural features such as forest growth.
The video was captured on September 16, 2022. It shows three streaks of light flash across the sky against a background of scattering clouds. Upon closer inspection, Fuji realized that the green lines were pulsating in time with the light appearing briefly between the clouds (just above the center of the video frame, if you want to identify them yourself).
Guessing it was a satellite, Fuji checked which spacecraft were flying over the cameras that night. Lo and behold, ICESat-2 has emerged as the likely culprit.
To show the other side of the encounter, NASA has released the Japan perspective of ICESat-2. The data chart shows satellite measurement of cloud layers over Japan as well as the country’s topography.
According to NASA, the ICESat-2 rocket is launched at a rate of 10,000 times per second. The satellite has already been imaged from Earth, but not its laser pulses, which require unique atmospheric conditions to be observed.
The clouds over the Hiratsuka City Museum that night scattered the laser light enough to make it visible to the Fuji cameras, but there weren’t many clouds blocking the light.
So the next time you see a bright light in the sky, it may not be a meteor or aliens. They may just be human tools, keeping track of what is happening in the field.
More: Astronomers come together to stop Starlink and other constellations of satellites from destroying the skies
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