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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Time lapse: Chinese rocket caught on video

By Phil Plait

Not that any time lapse video of the Very Large Telescope complex at Paranal in Chile would be normal, but this one by Farid Char caught something pretty unusual: what appears to be a Chinese rocket boosting a satellite to orbit!

Did you catch it? From 14 - 18 seconds in, you can see it as a bright object moving against the setting stars to the west. If you pause the video, you can see what look like two plumes of gas coming from the object (though I wonder; a cone-shaped plume might look like this too seen from the side due to limb-brightening). Given the time, it was most likely the Chinese satellite FengYun 2-F moving into its transfer orbit (or possibly just venting some fuel), and it will slowly boost itself to a final geosynchronous orbit over the next few weeks.

These time lapse videos are always pretty cool, but they're even better when they get a surprise like this!

Tip o' the lens cap to eundas on Twitter.

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