re: Top ten Bright ones!

Walter Nissen (dk058@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Sun, 22 Oct 1995 12:23:37 -0400

> From: (Josh R. Williams) 
> Subject: Top ten Bright ones! 
> I was wondering could anyone give me a top ten list of the best and 
> Brightest Sats. that are visible in the Northern Hemisphere above 40 
> degrees Lat.... I already have Mir as the Number one Satellite to look 
> for, any others? Thanks... 
Many people have contemplated this question, and some of us have given 
partial answers.  It seems to me I have addressed this question twice on 
SeeSat-L already this year.  The older messages are available from the 
SeeSat-L archive (perhaps an "egrep" on bright and Nissen and list would 
find them).  Also available from the archive is my own best partial answer 
to this question, a list of the brightest satellites I observed over a 
period of 2 or 3 years, from latitude 39N.  If you want only ten, simply 
sort the list on magnitude, and take the ten brightest.  You'll also need 
to include Resurs 1-3 r = 23343 = 94- 74B which has gone up since that 
list was compiled over 15 months ago.  The EORSATs C* 2293 = 23336 = 
94- 72A and C* 2313 = 23596 = 95- 28A replace older EORSATs deorbited or 
A little more consideration will reveal that there is no one true answer 
to this question.  On any given evening, one might be able to observe a 
reentry of a satellite, or a pass of a very low and bright object near 
re-entry.  Some usually dim satellites glint briefly and occasionally to 
very bright magnitudes, sometimes fairly predictably.  Are these worthy 
candidates?  Might SROSS-C2 = 23099 = 94- 27A, C* 1953 = 19210 = 88- 50A, 
C* 1933 = 18958 = 88- 20A, DMSP F3 = 10820 = 78- 42A be considered "best" 
because of their highly variable, irregular performance?  They certainly 
get very bright, if only momentarily.  Many have expressed the opinion 
that the bright NOSS 2-n satellites are the best, though they certainly 
aren't very near the ten brightest (Joe, I haven't forgotten your 
question, though I'm still not prepared to answer it).  What about the 
Zenit rocket bodies in 71 degree inclination orbits?  They can't all be in 
the top ten, but their relatively bright, repetitious passages (I recall 
that one went between Alkaid and Mizar on 8 consecutive evenings) strongly 
argue for their inclusion on any list of the "best".  Lacrosse 2 r = 21148 
= 91- 17B can be very bright, I believe it may well be second to Mir, but 
is not at all reliable. 
Mike McCants' QuickSat, also available from the archive, is a more evolved 
and sophisticated answer to your question.  It contains his catalog of 
absolute magnitudes, which can be used by itself.  But, with a file of 
elsets, such as Ted Molczan's, and a little practice, QuickSat will 
provide a very good approximation to an answer to your question for any 
interval of time you choose, with the bonus of explicit times and 
positions for observing, all in chronological order.  I wish I knew if any 
of the BWGS software provides a similar capability. 
I have written before (also available from the archive) about my efforts 
to publicize Mir and shuttle passages.  Sometimes I think it would be 
desirable to expand these efforts to unmanned craft, but which ones? 
After a little practice, anyone not visually impaired can reliably see any 
of several dozens, if not hundreds, of satellites.  But what about the 
typical member of the general public, with a lousy horizon, numerous 
street lights, interior and exterior lighting, phone ringing, dog barking, 
spouse nagging and no practice?  Is it worth sending the householder out 
to look for an EORSAT?  At lower latitudes, to see HST or GRO? 
Walter Nissen                216-243-4980 
A parent is a terrible thing to waste. 
Lady looking thru a telescope, talking to Sidewalk Astronomer John Dobson: 
                "Is this part of a study you are doing?" 
John Dobson:    "No, this is part of a study you are doing." 
(If anyone has the exact quotes and circumstances of this exchange, I'd 
love to see them.  I think it might have been in the first episode of "The