re: What is Cosmos 1953?

Leigh Palmer (
Thu, 21 Aug 1997 09:16:56 -0700

It was silly of me to leave home without my trusty $29 Casio wristwatch.
I wear it almost everywhere. My problem with positive identification is
timing. The Iridium track and the Cosmos track were gemetrically almost
identical, and less than two minutes apart. I know the sky well enough
to make good timings if I have an instrument, but I had to rely on the
watch of another. The result was that there was a discrepancy of order
of a minute - right between the two predicted apparitions!

Brian may be correct; it could have been an Iridium, but I'll never
know. The lesson is clear; don't go out without your watch, and keep it
accurate to the second. (I have a trick I use when I buy a watch. Casio
seems to set their watches fairly accurately at the factory. It may be
only superstition, but when I buy a watch I get the dealer's entire
supply of that model and choose the one that shows the most nearly
correct (ignoring the hour) time. I seem to get very good watches this
way, but perhaps they are all that good. I'm sure the dealers thought I
was a bit nuts; perhaps I am.)

Thanks for the information, Walter. -4 mag is only a guess, but my best
one. Venus had set when I made the observation. It is not usually possible
to make a reasonable comparison between Venus and an object in Cassiopeia
anyway because they are in skies of very different background brightnesses
when Venus is in apparition. One will still tend to overestimate the
brightness of the object in Cassiopeia.  I suspect the general tendency to
overestimate that you suspect is real. I can confidently state that the
object was brighter than -2 but not that it was less bright than -6. My
initial impression of landing light(s) probably describes it best. I have
seen lots of landing lights near Venus, by the way, and even made the
misidentification error both ways. Planes coming in from Asia often are
seen at dusk here in Vancouver. They appear to hold very still for a very
long time. One is tempted to wonder "Is that Mercury?"

I really appreciate the time you took to tell me about the satellites. I
am a physics teacher and astronomer, and satellite observation is really
only a casual byproduct. Knowing something about satellites does help my
astronomy teaching, however, especially during observation sessions with
my students.