FWD: NOSS satellites and magnitudes

Bart De Pontieu (BDP@MPEPL)
Tue, 27 Feb 1996 13:46:48 +0100 (CET)

Note from BDP: I'm forwarding this for Bill Krosney, whose e-mail
address seems to be incompatible with the SeeSat-software. 
Cheers, Bart

To all,

I had the following observation passed to me from some members within our 
astronomy club (Winnipeg, long.97.27, lat.49.85);

"Last Tuesday night (Feb 20) between 10:10 and 10:15pm CST (Feb.21/96 04:10 
UT) a number of people observed what appeared to be three satellites moving 
in unison.  They were moving from the NW toward the zenith.  Two were bright 
 - the brightnesss changed as we watched but peaked in the negative 
magnitudes (similar to Sirius).  As we watched they faded from view - 
presumably due to the Earth's shadow."

Running Quicksat with some Molczan elements (960217) almost certainly pins 
them as the NOSS 2-1 cluster (bodies B, C and D; NORAD numbers 20682, 20691, 
20692).  Time, direction and entering of shadow all match the Quicksat 
predicition.  What is interesting though is the magnitude.  I have observed 
a number of NOSS clusters and have always (but one exception) seen them as 
mag. 5 or 6 objects.  The one exception was about a year ago when I saw them 
at about mag. 2 at and extremely low altitude (about 20 degrees).  To be as 
bright as mag.2 at such a large line of sight distance implies they must 
have something rather large for a reflecting surface.

I knew that the NOSS clusters were classified military satellites (White 
Cloud) that used radio interferometry for target acquisition.  At least this 
is what I assumed based on what I could find.  But that's about it.  Anyone 
have some detailed info on them?  What else is known?  What is known about 
their physical structure?  Do they have large reflecting surfaces?  Has 
anyone else ever observed them as bright?

Thanks to all.....Bill

e-mail: bkrosney@richgreen.com (work)
           bkrosney@mbnet.mb.ca (home)