Friday, September 11, 2015

Small Adventure 46


Last week I'd heard news that JAXA was going to be launching a rocket from Tanegashima on Friday, Sept. 11. It was going to be in the evening, so I was half hoping that the weather would be good so I could finally see a launch (I missed the one in August because I had to work and none of the other launches in the last 4 years had been advertised in advance). Then, yesterday, just about when I'd forgotten about it, I caught a mention of it on the radio, confirming the launch time would be at 8. The sky was clear, although the humidity was pretty heavy and creating a haze at lower angles. I finished dinner at 7:30 and rushed out the door to climb up Shiroyama to see if I could get to the top in time to set up my tripod and one of the two cameras to get photos.

I got to the east parking lot of the Shiroyama hotel, and there were about 6 people standing around, waiting. It was just before 8 and I spent a couple minutes wrestling with the tripod to get it out of its carrying bag. I got set up, turned the camera on, aimed it south to where I thought Tanegashima island is, and also waited. After 10 minutes, some of the people got bored and left. I approached a couple of businessmen and asked them where the launch site was and they pointed 45 degrees farther to the left than where my camera was pointed. We kept talking, then suddenly there was a bright orange light rising up from dead east. It got up 100-200 feet then disappeared, having been visible for less than 5 seconds. One of the businessmen thought it was fireworks, but it had acted strange and there weren't any other lights following it, so we agreed it was a UFO. At 8:20, the businessmen left, but a few other guys were still hanging around, playing with their phones. I wanted to ask one of them if they could access the JAXA website for the launch status, but I didn't know how to go about doing that. Then, at 8:30, the last of the observers walked away, so I packed up the camera and went back down the hill, completely covered in sweat and needing a shower now.

Just as a note: Shiroyama is functionally at least as tall as a 35-story skyscraper. I ran the quarter-mile from the apartment to the base of the hill, and it took almost 10 minutes to walk up the stairs behind Terukuni shrine. It's exercise.

I got back to the apartment a little before 9 PM, and tried checking the various English newspaper sites for mentions of the launch, as well as the English version of the JAXA site. JAXA didn't even have anything scheduled TO launch at all this month. Very disappointing. Finally, sometime around 10 PM, the local radio station made an off-hand comment that the launch had been scrubbed, but without giving details. There was nothing on the newspaper websites again this morning. I'm assuming the UFO had been an expensive one-shot firework bought from 7-11, although it could have been the volcano...

Such is my life.

1 comment:

TSOTE said...

I talked to someone I know who is from Kagoshima, and he said there are actually two launch sites down here - the second one is Uchinoura, which had been used by one of the universities before being merged under the JAXA umbrella. Uchinoura is almost due east from Kagoshima, and it lines up with the "UFO" I'd seen. They usually handle smaller launch vehicles, which is why this one wasn't so obvious. I was also told that this launch was for a climate study satellite. I assume that what I saw was the first stage burn. The humidity was very heavy and acted like a ground-level cloud, blocking the fainter light at the higher altitudes of the arc. Still, it was pretty cool, even if the camera wasn't pointing in the right direction.