Introduction, Top 10

Ed Cannon (ecannon@mail.utexas.edu)
Thu, 18 Jul 1996 03:15:11 -0500

Thursday, 18 July 1996; Austin, Texas (30.33 N, 97.76 W)

Greetings:

I'm Ed Cannon, a visual satellite newbie.  I had seen Shuttles and Mir 
in the past using newspaper and local TV weather reporters' predictions.  
Then this past March the weathermen and newspaper here gave predictions 
for the Tethered Satellite.  After a couple of cloudy mornings, on March
9 I missed TSS but saw the Shuttle the day it landed.  The next morning
I did see TSS (as did my parents in San Antonio, Texas!).  It was truly
a *marvelous* sight.  After its pass, I was just looking at the sky, and
what should appear but some bright satellite following in a very similar
pass to TSS, only somewhat slower!  ...  That day I thought that there 
must be something about satellites on the Internet.  (Duh!)  Within a 
day or so I got an e-mail message from a person named Mike McCants 
telling me that my unknown following the TSS was GRO.  Wow!  This all 
struck me as really neat!  

So in March I first started getting predictions from "Earth Satellite 
Ephemeris Service", SatPasses site, and the other one (Georgia), and 
also Mike M's local Austin predictions.  Within just a few days I saw 
HST, one of the Lacrosses, etc.  Since then I've had the great good 
fortune to go observing with Mike on several occasions, seeing (using 
his dobsonian 8-inch [20.32 cm] telescope) dim LEOs, Molniyas, and 
(using a bigger telescope) geocentrics (five sats. close together, if 
I remember correctly), as well as flashers and sparklers (glinters).  

A couple of times, at Austin Astronomical Society events out in darker 
sky country, Sue Worden was there as well with her predictions ready.  
(Maybe Austin's moving towards having a "Visual Satellite Observers of 
Central Texas"...?)  Of course we sometimes have used Mike's telescopes 
for looking at comets, planets, nebulae, etc.!  I've also discovered 
that one exciting by-product of watching for satellites is seeing 
meteors, some of them very bright!  (I can't wait for the Perseids; two 
or three years ago I counted 80 in four hours, by far the most meteors
I've ever seen.)

Of course I've also been using Quicksat for several weeks now.  Besides 
supplying my folks in San Antonio with the brightest predictions (My 
mom's glaucoma meds. constrict her pupils to about 2 mm.), I've even 
been generating predictions (mostly Mir and STS) for a friend in Buenos 
Aires, Argentina.

I managed to see the IAE (inflatable antenna) through a break in clouds
on a mostly cloudy morning the day before it decayed and then sent Mike 
an exuberant message.  (Newbie!)

I guess I'd say I'm most interested in naked-eye satellites, although
the binocular/telescope sparkler/glinters and bright flashers are 
definitely exciting also.

My Bright Unknown:  On 4 July 1996, with culmination around 5:14 CDT
(10:14 UT, plus or minus 15 to 30 seconds maybe), I saw a very bright 
(mag 2 or 1, at least) object go from west to east passing very near 
the zenith.  It may have been somewhat more WNW to ESE (azimuth 280 to 
100).  I picked it up about 45 deg. altitude in the west and was able 
to follow it to about the same in the east, which took at least two 
minutes.  With the elements I had I was not able to find any LEO within 
five minutes either way of that time moving west to east and passing 
very near the zenith.  (About ten minutes earlier I saw 00694 at about 
the same brightness in a parallel pass but south of zenith.)  Mike 
found one possible high/eccentric object, but its predicted magnitude 
was around 6, if I remember correctly.

My biggest disappointment was finding out after the fact that I was
sitting at my computer early one clear morning just as the Shuttle 
(STS 77 I think) was re-entering almost directly overhead....

Okay, enough intro.  Now a topic:

Top 10:  It seems to me the SatPasses site has five or six candidates
for the brightest, easiest to observe satellites:  STS, Mir, HST, GRO, 
UARS, and COBE (which I've not seen yet).  Then there's old reliable
00694 Atlas Cent. and 23343 Resurs 01-3 Rk.  One of the most exciting
naked-eye satellites I've seen, partly due to not expecting the behavior 
I observed, is 23705 Cosmos 2322 Rk; two mornings in a row it went over 
flashing like a blinking light, very bright.

I haven't seen http://www.nasm.edu/GALLERIES/PLANETARIUM/BRIGHTSAT.html
mentioned -- that I remember -- since I've been reading SeeSat messages.  
Its maintainer, Geoff Chester, has selected 28 satellites for which he 
generates predictions (using Quicksat) for the Washington, DC, area.  
Perhaps it's more realistic to pick a "Top 25" or even "Top 30"...?

Pinpoint Flashes/MOS 1:  Maybe that's what I saw one night -- a flash
as bright as Polaris just a degree or two east of that star.

Okay, now back to lurking and looking for satellites!

Regards to all (and please pardon the long message),

Ed Cannon
ecannon@mail.utexas.edu