Vanguard 1

patrick wiggins (
Wed, 27 Aug 1997 16:15:06 -0700

A couple of years back I managed to spot Vanguard 2, the second oldest
payload in orbit, having been launched 17 FEB 59. =20

However, I hate being second at anything and the knowledge that the
oldest payload, Vanguard 1, launched 17 MAR 58, regularly flew over my
head, unobserved, really bugged me.

However, spotting a 15 cm sphere in a 650 x 4250 km orbit didn=92t seem

But still I plotted.  :-)  Carefully running the TLEs every Monday
looking for the right combination of satellite distance, position,
lighting angle and moonlight.

Well, I never did find the ideal pass, but this past Monday I noticed
there would be a pass this morning that "might" work.

So, off went the alarm at 0400 this morning and out I went to my
observatory.  A few minutes later I was at the eyepiece of my 355 mm
scope staring at the spot that Ted Molczan=92s TLEs and my copy of
OrbiTrack said the bird would be.

And shortly thereafter, right in the place predicted and just a few
seconds earlier than expected, just to the top of my field of view
passed a tiny point of light.  A 39 year old, 15 cm sphere, 1840 km
away.  Eureka!

Now, of course I=92m feeling pretty pleased with myself, but before my eg=
gets the best of me, I wonder if any of the more experienced satellite
watchers out there can comment on whether I really could have seen such
a small object at such a great distance with such a relatively small

In other words, is it possible that I just happened to see something
else and mistook it for Vanguard?
Patrick Wiggins, Hansen Planetarium, SLC, UT, USA
snail mail: 15 S. State St., SLC, UT 84111-1590
voice: 801.531-4952
fax: 801.531-4948