“Where the hell is it?” he muttered as his eyes searched the star field. The drive motor of his Meade twelve inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope kept it pointed to the same part of the sky, even though the Earth’s turning makes the sky seem to rotate around us. He did not have to make the constant adjustments that would otherwise have been necessary.
There was supposed to be a faint double star at that location, an almost perfectly matched pair of magnitude of 9.2 and 9.3 and a separation of only .48 arc seconds, fairly close to the resolution limit of his telescope. Each was supposed to have a slight yellow tint. The problem was there were too many stars that might have that color and none of them were appearing to be doubles. Maybe, he wondered, he should go to a higher power eyepiece.
As Roger was pondering changing eyepieces, a point of light came into existence. His eye was immediately drawn to it. Slowly it grew from nothing to a brightness equaling most of the other stars in the field of view. As he was wondering what it could possibly be, it began to fade from view. In just under sixty seconds, the new star was again invisible.
What the hell was that, he asked himself. A nova? Too fast. Likewise for supernova or any exploding stars. Reviewing the observation in his mind, he realized that the “new” star had not moved compared to the rest of the star field. Which would eliminate a satellite flash. An Earth orbiting satellite can produce an effect like that when its solar panels are turned just right to reflect sunlight. But the sun had set four hours before, and satellite flashes only occur when the sun is not far below the horizon.
A meteor? No way. It was not moving. Then he wondered if maybe, just maybe, he had seen a micro-meteor heading directly towards him. He had seen, during the Perseids a couple Augusts ago, a group of meteors coming directly at him. But that time the points of light that appeared had a small halo or ring spread out from them. He later figured out that was the expanding cloud of gases as the meteors whizzed through our atmosphere at high speed and vaporized. But this was not the same. Those meteors had lasted only a second, this had lasted nearly a minute.
So what was it? Maybe it was some new phenomenon that would get his name in science books? Not too likely, but a man can dream. Then it hit him.