Re: re satellite tracking

From: Jason P Hatton (
Date: Fri Feb 04 2000 - 23:20:08 PST

  • Next message: Jake Rees: "Re: satellite tracking"

    JAY RESPLER wrote:
    > George, Marple wrote:
    > >
    > > I intend to build a 6" f/8 reflector with a dobsonion mount-manually
    > > controlled-ie by hand!-would this equipment be ok for tracking
    > > satellites and - hopefully - to record positional observations-or
    > > should I be looking for a larger aperture scope-budget is my main
    > > driver in this!
    > You don't need larger. Probably don't even need scope. Most
    > obs are made with binoculars. Try them before getting a scope.
    I agree that binoculars are essential equipment for observing satellites
    in low earth orbit. Even if you do use a telescope for most of your
    observing, binoculars are still very useful for quickly looking at
    unexpected satellites or locating guide stars for aiming the telescope
    under light polluted conditions. There are also dozens of satellites
    visible to the naked eye, depending on how much light pollution you
    A 6" scope is ideal instrument for observing satellites too faint to be
    seen in binoculars (generally satellites in medium & high earth orbits).
    Smaller wide field telescopes, in the 70 to 100mm appature range, with
    3-4 degree fields of view are probably good instruments for observing
    low earth orbit satellites too faint to be seen in binoculars, but too
    fast moving to be easily followed with a larger scope.
    I regularly use a 6" f/6 reflector I built many years ago for observing
    high altitude satellites including geosynchronous satellites, Molniya's
    & rocket boosters in transfer orbits. For further details on how to
    observe these objects see my web page;
    I generally use a wide angle eyepiece (eg. x28, 1.8degree FOV) for
    brighter satellites & higher magnifications (eg. x73, 0.7degree FOV) for
    fainter objects. From my fairly light polluted observing site I can
    often see satellites as faint as mag +11. Finding these faint objects
    requires a good star map - I use Rob Matson's Skymap to print finder
    charts & then star hop to the star field where the satellite will pass
    The type of telescope mount is very important for tracking satellites. A
    Dobsonian mount with telflon bearings is ideal, since the scope can be
    moved smoothly in both altitude & azimuth with one hand. There was an
    article in Sky & Telescope, August 1998, pg125-128 describing how to
    optimise a dobsonian mounting to ensure it moves smoothly (The article
    might also be available online at I've also
    managed to readily track Mir Space station, (moving at 1degree/s?)
    easily with my scope using a low power eyepiece.
    Best wishes & clear skies,
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