Personal summary

Robert H. McNaught, Anglo-Australian Observatory (RMN@AAOCBN1.AAO.GOV.AU)
Sat, 16 Mar 1996 21:12:54 +1100 (EST)

As another new SeeSat subscriber (Hi Rich!), I'll give a short personal summary.

My initial interest in satellites was probably inspired by regular sightings
of Echo 1, 2 and Pageos in the 60s, from age 10 onwards.  These were sighted
based on predictions in the national newspapers.  In my mid-teens, I started
reporting positions for the BAA satellite section, but never really got going.

Around 1982, I joined the University of Aston (Birmingham, England) Earth
Satellite Research Unit as an observer with the 610mm f/1 Hewitt Satellite
Camera and this eventually brought me to Siding Spring Observatory, Australia
where the sister camera was sited.  The cameras provided astrometric positions
for around 50 satellites chosen to provide some geophysical information (shape
of the Earth and upper atmosphere studies) from their orbital evolution.
The unit closed in 1990, and I then moved into astronomy, as part of the
Anglo-Australian Near-Earth Asteroid Survey (AANEAS).

Many of my most memorable sightings have related to satellites.  Back in the
late 70s, whilst binocular variable star observing, I saw a group of three
satellites in formation one evening and several hours later saw another group
of three.  Never having seen even a pair before, this was neat.  Russell Eberst
identified both sightings as *the same* NOSS group!

One night in 1983, I noticed a "new" star of around mag 3 to 4.  Getting it in
20x120 binoculars, it was seen to be moving slowly eastward against the sky
background.  After a break to photograph a satellite with the Hewitt camera
I returned to scan eastwards in the hope of finding the object again, but found
it was still centered in the binoculars, although it had faded a few magnitudes.
I'm not sure if the identity of this geostationary satellite was ever determined
with certainty, but the initial sighting was just as it exited eclipse on a
date when the Sun was at the same declination as the satellite.  Any flat
surface facing towards the Earth will produce a specular reflection under that

In October 1987, Gordon Garradd and I photographed the re-entry of a Cosmos
rocket on our all-sky cameras.  It passed half-way between us and went from
horizon (Queensland) to horizon (the Tasman sea off Sydney).  Sadly neither
of us saw it, but a Channel 7 (Sydney) cameraman got some nice video.

SEDS and TSS were spectacular, but I'm happy they are short lived.  Space junk
can ruin a lot of astronomical work.

Rob McNaught,