Visual Sat. observing and WinTrak

Patrick J. Wagner (pjwagner@ix.netcom.com)
Wed, 2 Aug 1995 20:52:41 +0000

My satellite observing buddy (Joe) has been in Eureka, CA, USA (on the 
coast) for a few weeks.  He wrote me that he is having problems finding satellites 
that "WinTrak" (Paul Traufler's Windows Satellite Tracking Software) 
tells him are up and visible. We have been very successful with this 
software in the past.  He is an accomplished amatuer 
astronomer, and he and I have logged hundreds of hours in Sacramento, 
CA (USA) observing satellites.  I'm stumped.  Does anyone have any 
suggestions?

This is Joe's post:

   I've been doing a LOT of satellite observing from 
Eureka, Calif., and I'm having TERRIBLE luck seeing 
satellites.  I use Traksat 2.80 to generate an 
anlytical solution  and Wintrak 3 for the "visible satellites"
 and plotting against the night sky.
  My problem is that I have tried **ALL** night to see satellites 
night after night, and have been having TERRIBLE luck. I will 
typically go after 50-70 satellites and end up seeing ONLY six or 
so!!  
  **HERE is the KICKER** - the ones that I DO see are plotted 
PERFECTLY by Wintrak 3 and are following the EXACT course as I see it 
against the star background!!  SO I KNOW that the elements 
are good, just as my time and location are correct.  The problem is 
that 90% of the time I will hit the "visible satellite" toolbar button, plot the 
DELTA PATH, switch to REAL TIME and NOT SEE IT in the sky ANYWHERE 
along it's path.  This happens night after night.  Even after sunset 
or before sunrise it doesn't get much better.
   I am clearly frustrated.  I must be doing something wrong 
somewhere. I have tried the obvious things; I check to make sure the 
elements are UP TO DATE (within a week at worst, often times its 
within a day or two). I have been using NEW_MOLC as my element set. 
In fact, thinking that I was just choosing wrong, I even used a new 
set of VISUAL.ELE elements   NO change. I still see 10%.  To sum it up; if I hit the 
"visible satellites" button and go out to look for a satellite that 
Wintrak says is visible and going high in the sky, the chances are 
that I WON'T SEE it.
 Here are a few specific things I have tried in addition to the 
above:
  Go for HIGH ones only (altitude above horizon).
  Go for satellites that are low in orbit ( I tried many < 500km)
  Go for satellites that are high in orbit( I tried those between 1500 and 
2000 thinking that high ones were better able to get a sun angle)
  Go for only those with low ranges (<900, but many I DID see were 
>1500!!)
  Go for those with directions that looked ~ opposite the sun
  Go for those that looked to be just ABOVE where the sun is
  Go for those that had popular names (Radcat, Landsat, Moss 1 etc.)
  Go for those only one hour after sunset or before sunrise
  Go for those that were in the analytical solution

  Can it be that these ones that are supposed to be "visible" are too 
dim and I am just having BAD luck? (I am using 7x50 binoculars
 in a pretty dark sky; I can easily see mag 5 with the naked eye.) 
Because Wintrak/Traksat are predicting the ones I AM seeing 
correctly, I can't imagine it's a problem with the software, right?
  Please advise,
     Joe 

(Please reply to the list, for the sake of other visual observers, 
and I'll pass the responses on to him, and suggest he signs up
for this list!  And I'm sorry this is so long  -  Pat)