Chang’e 5-T1 (not a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage) booster going to hit the Moon: a memorable coverage of its last fly-by (8 Feb. 2022)

The Chang’e 5-T1 booster (not SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage) going to hit the Moon next 4 March did its last fly-by with the Earth  and it is now heading to its final fate. We did a superb coverage of the event.

Chang’e 5-T1 booster at its last fly-by with the Earth. 8 Feb. 2022.

Chang’e 5-T1 booster at its last fly-by with the Earth. 8 Feb. 2022.

IMPORTANT UPDATES (13 Feb. 2022): this space debris is now considered to be connected with the Chinese Chang’e 5-T1 launch!

 

The image above comes from a single 60-second exposure, remotely taken with the “Elena” (PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E) robotic unit available at Virtual Telescope. The telescope tracked the fast apparent motion of the Chang’e 5-T1 booster, so it looks like a sharp, bright dot, with surrounding stars leaving very long trails. Once again, such a capture reveals the superb tracking capabilities of the Paramount ME robotic mount.

One thing which was amazing to note was the rapidly changing brightness of the booster: the object is clearly tumbling, hence the brightness variations. The time-lapse below used 433, 1-second exposures, taken back to back between 20:21 and 21:00 UTC, covering the nominal minimum distance from the imaging site (at 20:44 UTC, vs 21:01 UTC of the minimum distance from Earth center):

Chang’8 5-T1 booster: 8 Feb. 2022.

Chang’8 5-T1 booster: 8 Feb. 2022.

To show such a intriguing behaviour in a different way, we asked our telescope to track at the usual sidereal rate, so the Chang’e 5-T1 booster left a long trail, which clearly shows a variable brightness.

The Chang’e 5 T-1 booster looks like a long trail, revealing it is tumbling. 8 Feb. 2022.

The Chang’e 5 T-1 booster looks like a long trail, revealing it is tumbling. 8 Feb. 2022.

Here it is a screenshot showing the control panel of the robotic telescope, soon after we took the image opening this post.

The Chang’e 5 T-1 booster looks like a long trail, revealing it is tumbling. 8 Feb. 2022.

The Chang’e 5 T-1 booster looks like a long trail, revealing it is tumbling. 8 Feb. 2022.

Finally, you can find below the podcast of our very successfully live feed

Now, the booster is heading to its final fate, impacting on the Moon next month and it will no longer visible at night.

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