Geostationary Tour (long)

From: Dr.Brian Hunter (
Date: Thu Mar 16 2000 - 03:32:16 PST

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    On the evening of March 14/15 2000,  I did a tour of the geostationary
    belt by taking advantage of the brightness of these satellite as they near
    I was observing from  50.8703N 0.3406E 15m at Herstmonceux Castle.
    Observing conditions were not ideal.  There was considerable sky 
    brightness from the first quarter moon and I had my telescope on a tripod 
    sitting on the sill of my open window.    
    It was clear with occasional wisps of jet contails drifting by.   I was
    also trying to photograph a visiting badger and the absence of an observation
    should not be interpreted as meaning that the satellite cannot be seen.  I did
    miss several possible satellites.  Where noted, a couple of the identifications
    area bit dodgy.
    All were seen in an 80 mm f/5 refractor using a 10mm eyepiece to give 40
    power.  This gives a reasonable field of view and a limiting magnitude of
    about 10 or so.   I used Rob Matson's Skymap to keep track of where to look.  
    I began at 21:10 by finding SAO 138023 at RA 11h10m15s DEC -7deg 23'35" and 
    magnitude 6.82.  
    I needed to use the Tycho catalog plotting down to 10th magnitude to keep
    track of where I was.  The shadow entry point moves slowly west in RA and I
    gradually moved my target star to SAO 13987, SAO 137970, and finally  
    SAO 137858 and SAO 137856.  These are all easy with the last at 7.82 
    magnitude.  I find it helpful to use relatively faint reference stars as a
    bright one tends to overpower the whole field.
    The table below lists all the satellites I saw from 2000 03 14 21:26 UT to 
    2000 03 15 00:55 UT.  
    The types are collected from Wade's Encyclopedia Astronautica.
    TIME      NORAD    COSPAR       NAME          TYPE            NOTE               
    Mar 14
    21:26     24652    96093A     ARABSAT 2B   SPACEBUS 3000
    21:38     20706    90063B     DFS 2        SPACEBUS 100        1
              23331    97070A     ASTRA 1D     HS601
              25462    98050A     ASTRA 2A     HS601
    21:44     23948    96040A     ARABSAT 2A   SPACEBUS 3000   
              25638    99009A     ARABSAT 3A   SPACEBUS 3000
    21:55     22175    92066A     DFS 3        SPACEBUS 100
    22:06     25515    98063A     AFRISTAR     EUROSTAR 2000       2
    22:14     19688    88109B     ASTRA 1A     AS4000              3
              21139    91015A     ASTRA 1B     AS5000              3
              22653    93031A     ASTRA 1C     HS601               3
              23842    96021A     ASTRA 1F     HS601               3
              25071    97076A     ASTRA 1G     HS601               3
              25785    99033A     ASTRA 1H     HS601HP             3
    22:26     24208    94044A     ITALSAT 2    ITALSAT
              25491    98056A     EUTELSAT W2  SPACEBUS 3000
    22:41     23537    95016B     HOT BIRD 1   SPACEBUS 2000       4
              24665    96067A     HOT BIRD 2   EUROSTAR 2000       4a
              24931    97049A     HOT BIRD 3   EUROSTAR 2000       4
              25237    98013A     HOT BIRD 4   EUROSTAR 2000       4b
              25495    98057A     HOT BIRD 5   EUROSTAR 2000       4
    22:54     22028    92041B     EUTELSAT2-F4 SPACEBUS 100        5
    23:04     25673    99018A     EUTELSAT W3  SPACEBUS 3000
    23:14     25049    97971A     SIRIUS 2     SPACEBUS 3000       6
    23:21     23730    95067A     TELECOM 2C   EUROSTAR 2000
    23:36     23816    96015A     INTELSAT 707 FS 1300             7
    23:53     21939    92021A     TELECOM 2B   EUROSTAR 2000
              24209    96044B     TELECOM 2D   EUROSTAR 2000
    Mar 15
    00:27     25949    99059A     ORION 2      FS 1300
    00:42     23528    95013A     INTELSAT 705 FS 1300
    00:55     21987    92032A     INTELSAT K   AS 5000
              24957    97053A     INTELSAT 803 AS 7000
    1  Where two or more satellites are listed after the same time,
     they are all in the same field of view.
    2  Very easy at magnitude 6.5 or a bit brighter.
    3  Seeing had deteriorated here and I'm not really sure how 
    many of the Astra group I was seeing.  A few days ago, I could 
    easily see six objects.  It is worth noting that, from Skymap 
    and the exisiting data, it is not possible to get exact 
    positions and be absolutely certain which object is which.  
    They are amazingly close together.
    4  These make a very impressive sight, four of the five are 
    easy to see and they are more or less in a row.
    4a Beware of the age of elsets;this one was 14 days old and 
    leads to a prediction error of 4 minutes. 
    4b Beware of the age of elsets;this one was 36 days old and 
    leads to a prediction error of 4 minutes. I was surprised to 
    find these two old elsets in the middle of a group where the 
    other three are 6 days old.
    5  I stayed with this one until it entered the shadow.  The 
    brightness was constant for the last two minutes and it faded
    to invisibility over about 20 seconds.  
    6  May have been SIRIUS 3 (25492 98056B) but the timing is 
    better for SIRIUS 2.
    7  This one is a bit of a puzzle. There should be three others 
    nearby: THOR 1 (20762 90074A), THOR 2A (24808 97025A), and 
    THOR 3 (25358 98035A).  The identification is based on two things.
    There is another FS 1300 visible below and the THOR's are all 
    HS376's which are spin stabilized.  I would not expect them to
    brighten as much and if I'd seen one of them, I'd expect to see
    them all. 
    Brian K. Hunter                 
    Professor of Chemistry                    Phone: (613)-545-2620
    Queen's University                        Fax:   (613)-545-6669
    Kingston, Ontario    K7L 3N6  Canada
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