Introduction

SULLIVAN (tssulliv@unix.amherst.edu)
Tue, 14 Jan 1997 15:44:08 -0500 (EST)

My principal two motivations for satellite tracking are aesthetic interest in
seeing these objects orbiting our planet, and conceptual interest in 
understanding orbital dynamics and satellite charactaristics.  Aesthetically,
my favorite satellite is definitely EGP/Ajisai; other favorites are
OAO-3/Copernicus and Centaur 2.  Since I used to distract myself during meteor
photography with satellite observations, I have concentrated on high-altitude
(>1000 km) binocular objects.  I particularly like some of the Intelsat
centaur rb's, and had one binocular sighting of a Centaur at over 20,000 km.

I am presently a senior at Amherst College, in western Massachusetts, 
where I am triple-majoring in computer science, astronomy and cultural 
criticism, and am writing a thesis on the cultural effects of the image of 
Earth from space.  I saw the recent launch of Atlantis from the roof of 
our physics building, and noticed something curious:  after MECO and ET 
sep, I continued seeing a series of irregularly-timed bright flashes, 
duration about 1/4 sec, as the vehicle moved about 40 deg in azimuth.  I 
did not time this, but it probably continued for about 30 sec after 
MECO, until I lost sight of the vehicle behind buildings.  There were 
about 10 of these flashes, declining in frequency.  I was watching in 
binocs, but others with me saw them naked eye.  I didn't think of 
estimating magnitude at the time, but I would put it around +1 to -1.  I 
believe the vehicle was not in daylight, because I could not see Atlantis 
between flashes in binocs.  Does anyone know what they were?  My best 
guess is RCS firings for moving away from the tank or changing attitude.

--- Sean Sullivan