Using a sophisticated telescopic tracking system amateur astronomer Thierry Legault has spotted and taken a video of the inoperative Russian Mars probe Phobos-Grunt. The probe successfully launched into orbit Nov 11 failed soon after launch. Its two cruise stage burns that would have taken it out of Earth orbit and then put it on a path to Mars fizzled. The Phobos-Grunt's ambitious mission was to recover soil from the Mar's moon Phobos and then return that soil to Earth, a first for any space agency.
Astronomer Legault similarly captured images of NASA's UARS satellite last year. When asked by the BBC about the challenges of getting such a shot Thierry explained "difficulty was very comparable to UARS; they had comparable speed, brightness and size. Except that I had to drive more than 800km to find clear skies in the French Riviera!"
The Phobos-Grunt satellite is expected to fall back to Earth in the next 8 or 9 days with up to some 400 lbs surviving the reentry. As with all falling space debris no exact determination can be made where the debris will land. If Phobo-Grunt comes back to a part of Earth that is in darkness a highly visible plasma trail would be easily seen.
Read the full article.