Observatories tracking

From: Greg Roberts (grr@telkomsa.net)
Date: Fri Feb 22 2008 - 12:40:16 UTC

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    Hi All
    SPACE.com contacted a number of astronomical 
    observatories but none reported attempting to 
    observe the satellite last night, nor did they have 
    plans for future observations of the debris.
    "We didn't observe the satellite destruction last 
    night," said a spokesperson from the W. M. Keck 
    Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, who declined 
    to be named. "Our telescope cannot track something 
    moving that fast. To track an object moving that 
    fast you need a much more nimble telescope."
    May be a little OT but I am always amused at the 
    view the public and the press have of  astronomical 
    observatories and what astronomers do. As a retired 
    professional astronomer of something like 35 years 
    95% of astronomers do not have the slightest interest 
    in observing artificial satellites and especially not 
    when engaged in scientific observational programs. 
    Normally telescope observing time is expensive and 
    the observers have a limited amount of time to do 
    the observations planned, especially if bad weather 
    is likely to cause loss of time. 
    The last thing astronomers do is sit on their ends 
    idly looking up at the sky . In most cases nowadays 
    the astronomer sees very little of the sky as he sits 
    inside an enclosed "warm" room and watches a 
    monitor on which his/her astronomical target of 
    interest is shown.   Certainly at the observatories
    where I worked the "outside" telephone lines were 
    ignored during the night to discourage causal members 
    of the public phoning with questions etc and the
    telpehone exchange in  the nearby town had strict
    instructions to put calls through to the observers
    hostel and not to the various telescope domes on
    the hill.
    Professional astronomers generally do not know much
    about artificial satellites yet are often quoted by the
    popular press and some of the garbage that comes out 
    makes me cringe . Of course the intelligence of some
    members of the press also leaves something to be
    desired - I once casually mentioned the space shuttle in
    an interview and the reporter asked what was a space
    Ill get off my soap-box now...
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