Cassini Observation
Wed, 18 Aug 1999 20:15:22 EDT

I'm surprised that no one has posted observations of Cassini. So, although 
I'm a lurker 99.9% of the time, I feel compelled to share my observation. 

Conditions were fair last night, but still worth going to bed early (21:15 
EDT) and waking up in the middle of the night (23:45 EDT) to go to the 
astronomy club's observatory (Wagman Observatory) for some observing. My 
target was none other than the Cassini spacecraft, bound for Saturn after 
completing a gravity assisted fly-by of the Earth just hours earlier. With 
calculations from JPL, I headed out.

When I arrived at the Observatory, I debated about opening the 20-inch 
reflector; some thin haze was covering Aquarius. After a few minutes though, 
the clouds were moving off, so I was GO.

0:20 EDT, 1998 August 18 (4:20 UT Aug 18). I set up the scope and star hopped 
to the predicted position. Within a minute, I had the Cassini spacecraft in 
sight! It was faint (12th magnitude?), but it's motion was apparent within 10 
seconds with only 100 power. I watched it off and on for another hour as it 
drifted through Aquarius. By the time it passed psi2 Aquarii at 1:30 EDT 
(5:30 UT Aug 18), it's motion was much slower and trickier to detect at 200 
power. Naturally, the brightness had dropped as well but was still reasonable 
(at least for a 20-inch scope). 

Cassini was then more than 72,000 miles away: more than 3 times farther than 
a geosynchronous satellite! Needless to say, I was quite excited and had a 
hard time getting back to sleep.

God speed Cassini. Have a safe journey to Saturn.

John Holtz
Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
40d 37m 33.6s N   79d 48m 45.3s W  405m elevation