Re: Anyone help me?

Leigh Palmer (palmer@sfu.ca)
Wed, 13 Aug 1997 08:27:53 -0700

>     As I am a rank beginner in visual observation of satellites, I would
>     like to know if anyone out there can offer some assistance.
>
>     I would like to know if you could supply me with some GOOD
>     observations that my son and I might be able to enjoy, without the use
>     of optics.
>
>     We spend our weekends under the VERY dark skies at the lake home, and
>     really enjoy watching the MIR-Progress system.
>
>     Please let me know if you have any predictions that are of a fairly
>     high magnitude, i.e. naked eye.  Our lake home is in Pierceton,
>     Indiana, USA, and is at 41.12.01N, 85.42.20W at an elevation of 250
>     meters.
>
>     Thank you very much.
>     Jim D. Martin
>     jdmartin@itt.com

This group will provide a great resource for asking questions (I'm not
a terribly active member). There are resources on the web frewuently
referred to here which can provide you with details. Let me suggest
something as a father of four. I think that you probably own a computer
and that your son is probably already using it. Seize the opportunity
to help him learn some science through this activity. It is both easy
and compelling, and challenges also exist, though I have never tried
the more difficult feats which are reported here from time to time.

You need to get your own software and fresh elements. There are so many
satellites to observe (I saw 16 in less than three hours Friday night
under dark skies, all naked eye and unpredicted) that you will be
overwhelmed trying to deal with printed prediction lists. Other tools
you may find handy are a shortwave radio (for time signals from WWV
that do not require looking at your watch) and a tape recorder to keep
track of the evening's data. Binoculars are also useful, but they are
not necessary. You will soon find that you have to learn some
constellations and star names so that your data can be meaningful, and
you will learn how the sky moves automatically. Finally, you should
obtain a planetarium application for your computer which permits the
simulation of artificial satellite motions.

Both you and your son will learn a great deal from this exercise. I
wish all the paraphernalia had been available to me when my children
were young. My first one was born on the same day I saw my first
artificial satellite, Echo II, on the morning of 23 August 1960 from
Berkeley, by accident as I loaded the car to drive my wife to the
hospital.

Leigh