re: Routine Obs Reporting

Philip Chien (
Mon, 2 Aug 1999 04:18:31 -0400

Bruno Tilgner <>

>I am NOT in favour of routine observation reports.
>Everything that behaved as calculated with publicly
>available TLEs isn't worth reporting. Newton's and
>Kepler's theories need no proof any more. It is
>particularly useless to state that a known object
>passed close to some star or constellation.

I've got to STRONGLY disagree with this sentiment.

To me satellite observing is a hobby and an art - not a mechanical task.
(It's also indirectly part of my work, but that's besides the point).

A paragraph describing seeing Mir for the first - or 1024th time and what
it looked like, wondering about the thoughts of the folks onboard, any
unusual visual characteristics, any objects preceeding or trailing, etc. is
*MUCH* more enjoyable than a list of numberic tables in IOD or PPAS format.

Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with those posts either.
Different strokes for different folks.  There are many different ways to
visually observe satellites.  (I'm thinking about trying to 'observe' on
216 Mhz. via NAVSPUR pings to give an extreme case).

Not everybody is an experienced observer who can see a satellite visually a
third of the way to the moon, predict the decay date for an incredibly
small piece of debris, look for decaying objects, determining the identity
of unknown observations, see a discarded solar array from New Jersey, or
calculate the orbits of classified satellites from unclassified visual
observations.  But these 'non-routine' skills shouldn't be requirements for
anybody (experienced or not) who is interested in sharing visual

I certainly agree that uninteresting observations shouldn't be reported -
but who's the arbitrator who determines what is and isn't interesting?
Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?

I still remember the first time I saw a satellite based on predictions,
Discovery on the 51-D shuttle mission in April 1985.  Predictions were
published in the local newspaper and I was thrilled to see a point of light
with seven people onboard (well to be more accurate six people and a member
of Congress).

Ironically I can't convince that particular newspaper to include satellite
predictions now ...

For me it's a special thrill to see a satellite (or shuttle) on the ground
before launch, see it in orbit, and in a couple of rare cases see it again
after it's back on the ground.  Granted it's not something everybody has
the access to do, but it's one of my pleasures.  I got a great kick out of
shouting to a bunch of folks to come out and see the shuttle Columbia pass
directly overhead just one orbit before it landed at the Cape.  Yes, a
quite routine visual observation and rather simple which any newcomer could
do on the first try.  But still kind of special to me.

If Seesat was limited to only "non-routine" observations then it would be
even more limited than it is now, and even more intimidating to those who
are interested in getting in our hobby.

And it's important to remember - if you don't like the "I saw Mir" posts
you can always toss them in to the Trash.

OBJ on topic visual satellite observing comment -- *!#&$ clouds.

Philip Chien, KC4YER
Earth News
world (in)famous writer, science fiction fan, ham radio operator,
all-around nice guy, etc.