Using a laptop for sat Obs 4 the 1st time

From: Tom Wagner (sciteach@mchsi.com)
Date: Sat Dec 04 2004 - 13:00:11 EST

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    Finally, I purchased a laptop and used it to aid in observing satellites
    real time. Last night (Dec 3/04) the temperature was low, my hands were
    freezing cold and my computer was set atop a towel on the hood of my pickup.
    I was parked at +42D 24M 50S by -92D 22M 0S just N of Eagle Center, Iowa.
    The time was approaching 6 PM local time. I had plugged in only the “visual”
    satellites obtained from McCants' files. As I watched satellites cross the
    computer screen I tried to find them in the sky. It was much easier to
    locate them with my low power night vision scope initially but after using
    that scope, one eye had no night vision for binoculars. I spotted several
    objects. It still was not easy finding them when there were no identifiable
    stars close by. When two passed through the zenith I was surprised how high
    that was! Not used to cranking my cervical vertebra that much. Most of the
    sats were about 2 seconds late but traveled right along the line where they
    were predicted to travel.
    
    Using the software, TheSky, I time-skipped ahead hoping to find a pair of
    satellites passing close to each other but found none at an acceptable
    altitude. However, as I watched the Cosmos 44 rocket body travel through
    Cetus low in the eastern sky I saw a second satellite (one not on my
    computer screen) approach it. To my delight they passed within .44 degrees
    of each other! The time of closest approach was 17:49:57 local time or
    23:49:57 UTC.
    
    What was that other satellite I wondered? I then, for the first time, when I
    got home downloaded the satellite data for all LEO objects from McCants. I
    selected the lot and low and behold, amongst the myriad of sats, I found one
    very close to Cosmos 44! It was ADEOS 1. I ran the simulation and saw
    exactly what had happened in the sky. All excited, I took my laptop to a
    basketball game at the school where I teach. For a few students I ran the
    simulation. They too were delighted.
    
    The TLEs I used follow:
    
    Cosmos 44 Rocket
    1 00877U 64053B   04336.51517110 +.00000075 +00000-0 +41327-4 0 07527
    2 00877 065.0791 337.2295 0053253 114.9169 245.7477 14.57873041133522
    ADEOS 1
    1 24277U 96046A   04338.63530245  .00000048  00000-0  35584-4 0  8285
    2 24277  98.2684 359.7435 0001888 100.3801 259.7595 14.28518428432414
    
    I was pleased to experience this laptop usage for the first time after
    hearing about what it was like as told by Russ Bessom some two years ago.
    [By the way Russ, are you still out there?] After the show, totally off
    topic here, I noticed a nicely defined 2-inch hole in the hard packed soil
    in front of my truck. Being curious, I walked over to it and shone my
    flashlight down the hole. Low and behold, there was a cute little field
    mouse inside looking out at me. I said hi, apologized to him for the
    disturbance, and left some crackers as compensation.
    
    All in all a good night in the field, in a farmer’s field that is.
    
    Tom  Iowa  USA
    +  +   +
    
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