FORTE observation retracted

Wed, 3 Sep 1997 07:49:53 -0500

Yesterday I began reviewing email from the long weekend and came across
messages regarding FORTE elements. After reviewing Jim Varney's posting,
I went back and reevaluated the predictions for FORTE and found that I
must have observed the Cosmos rocket (#06966)whose orbit track mirrored
that of FORTE on the night of my observation posting. So, my observation
posted last week was not correct.  Normally I would have used my 150mm
binoculars for that type of observation, but that night I used 7x35.

Last night I attempted FORTE again, expecting a much fainter object, and
also verifying that the orbit of object  06966 was not nearby. At 02:37
UT Sept. 3, I observed a 9.5 magnitude object at elevation 37, azimuth
298, range 785 st. mi. and perhaps this is FORTE. The phase was poor and
elevation not the best from here given terrain masking in places.  The
object did not appear to vary in brightness but it was only tracked
about 15 seconds due to cloud and trees in the way. (I have to use gaps
in trees sometimes). I had forcefully eliminated what should be all
possible conflicts. The angular velocity, direction and time conformed
well with the prediction. If weather permits, I will triple check this

Thanks to Jim for pointing out that no matter what your experience
level, it is always possible to mistakenly identify a satellite in the
increasingly crowded skies.

On a more positive note, I found that a photograph I exposed of the
recent Iridium grouping 24903-24907 came out well and there are 5 flares
visible. Another item to show at Euromos 3.

Paul D. Maley
DO5/Cargo Operations
NASA Johnson Space Center
Houston TX 77058 USA
phone: 281-244-0208
fax: 281-244-7622
latitude 29.5378 north; longitude 95.0868 west; altitude 6 m