RE: List of Bright Satellites - Why is it prepared Manually?

Ted Molczan (
Sun, 29 Dec 1996 20:22:48 -0500

Dave Ziemann wrote:

>>One reason I did not look so closely is that I had been hoping for a =
>>way of doing things than finding the relevent software, downloading it =
>>my PC, learning how to drive it, grappling with unfamiliar terms and =
>>continuously feeding it with element sets which seem to be available =
from a
>>number of different sources.
>As an enthusiast I might want to do that, but as a novitiate I do not. =
>seems sort of dumb to have to download a program from the internet, =
>that program is itself reliant on data available (mainly) on the =
>Better if the program is located at a "one-stop" web site, from which =
>knows where to get element sets. I should never even hear the phrase
>"element set".=20

If you are not interested in the technical details, then you need only =
go outside during twilight and scan the half of the sky opposite the =
sun. From a suburban=20
area, at least ten satellites can be seen with the unaided eye each =
hour. No muss,
no fuss!

>That is what I meant when I said:
>>The currently available software is fantastic in terms of speed and =
>>but does make certain assumptions about the level of technical skill =
>>motivation of its users.

You could say that about virtually any computer software. A word =
program is useless except to those who know a language and are motivated =
express themselves.=20

>I realise that this may not initially sound very appealing to those who =
>multiple copies of satellite software, but the trend is inevitable.=20

Are you suggesting that someone is opposed to this "trend" for =
reasons? I believe that most orbit prediction programs are written for =
personal use of the programmer. Many of these programs are then made =
as freeware or shareware, but I doubt that anyone selling them is making =
money to worry about competition.

>Another advantage of this approach is that all the users would by =
>be using the same, latest element set

Assuming that the elements were located in a database, and updated in =
as fast as NORAD issued updates, then users would be using the latest =
elset at
the time they log on, but they would not be using the *same* elset =
because they
would not all log on at the same time. In any case, there is little or =
practical benefit in everyone using the same element set to make =

>I know that the serious hobbyist will want to take more control of the
>software and the data, but I am describing what a casual observer might =
>to do, and for whom the "activation energy barrier" is currently way =
too hi

My experience has been that the main "activation energy barrier" is =
within the=20
individual. Through public speaking and star parties, I have introduced =
of people to satellite observation. For two years, I even managed a =
satellite observation group, involving about a dozen persons. They were =
excellent software, the latest elements, and alerted to special events. =
training was available. As a result of all of this effort, one person =
has become=20
a regular observer, and none have become analysts.

I have compared notes with others like myself, and their experience has =
similar. From this I have formulated Molczan's Law:

        If a person truly wants to become an satellite observer and/or
        orbital analyst, then she will move heaven and earth to become
        one; otherwise, no amount of externally applied energy will
        help him overcome his activation energy barrier.

>But until then, I will download some satellite software, update my =
"favourite" satellites
>list, and wait for the clouds to go away...

And you will learn to love it!

Ted Molczan