Imaging satellites

Allen Thomson (
Fri, 7 Feb 1997 14:51:08 -0800

Ted Molczan wrote:

>Jay Respler wrote:

>>Has anyone tried [to image] real goodies like Lacrosse, KH, Noss?
>>If not, why not?

>They have been imaged by hobbyists, but they refuse to release
>them to the world. There are two possible reasons not to do so.
>First, one may wish to uphold his or her government's desire for
>secrecy (in which case one should not look at them in the first
>place), or one may be using equipment that belongs to a federally
>subsidized public institution, and fears retribution at budget time.

>Sooner or later, some without those inhibitions will come forward with

   Well, since the government in question is the USG, perhaps looking
for someone not subject to its legal or (more likely) administrative
retribution to obtain the images is in order.  In furtherance of
which idea, let me offer the following:

   Schildknecht T., U. Hugentobler and A. Verdun 
   Astronomical Institute of the University of Berne, 
   Sidlerstrasse 5, CH--3012 Bern, Switzerland 
      Optical observations of artificial satellites differ 
   significantly from the observations of 'classical', 'slow 
   moving' astronomical objects like asteroids, comets or stars... 
      The new Zimmerwald 1 m telescope has been designed as a 
   multi-purpose instrument but with special emphasis on 
   artificial satellite observation capability (the telescope 
   is used for satellite laser ranging during daytime). The 
   detector system consists of a 2k x 2k four section CCD with 
   fast readout electronics... 

   The CCD camera described isn't exactly what they'd
need to image LEO satellites, but I'd be surprised if they
didn't have a video camera available.  Also, depending on seeing
conditions at Zimmerwald, it might be desirable to stop the aperture
of the telescope down somewhat.  But the crucial factor
is the tracking mount, and the fact that they do laser ranging
encourages the hope that they can handle the ~1 deg/sec needed
for LEO work.

   So here's a suggestion -- perhaps someone in Europe could
contact these folks and see whether they can and would undertake
an imaging project.  The Sky & Telescope Astro Directory indicates
that the second author, Urs Hugentobler, has the email address

   BTW, while researching this, I discovered that there is a 
section of the Swiss Astronomical Society home page devoted 
to satellite watchery:

   The material is quite well done, but they seem to be unaware of 
SeeSat-L, and I don't recall seeing any .ch messages here.  Maybe 
one of our German-speaking members could get in touch with the page's 
maintainers and suggest some additional links and information for them 
to incorporate.