Beautiful HST show

Mike Johnston (
24 Jul 1995 11:33:46 -0700

I received a wonderful viewing of the Hubble Space Telescope last Saturday
July 23 rd. ANd it was quite unexpected. Every Friday from a tracking program
on my computer at work I print the appearances of some naked-eye viewable
satellites. of course HST is in the list but it hasn't been viewable in my skies
for a while and, frankly, I forgot to look ahead for any appearances for the

My family and I were walking on the Balboa pier down in Newport, Ca and remarking
on how just getting a little distance from the shore made many more stars 
visible. My son (three yers old) was pointing out Jupiter to the less than interested
fishermen. Though my kids know the visible planets (I've pointed them out enough
to the point of their rebellion), I really didn't think my family was ever going to
catch on to satellite watching. I drag them out enough to see MIR and the Shuttles
but I've always felt they were being polite watching a grown man follow a point
of light across the sky.

So I wasn't even thinking satellites when my wife said "Isn't that a satellite"?
She was pointing to a bright object that was somewhere between 0 and -1 in 
magnitude. It was heading for Jupiter and I thought it would eclipse. Indeed I wouldn't
give it more than 5 arc minutes in separation. It was beautiful. In fact, someone
in Orange County should have seen an occultation. I knew there
were few satellites that could be that bright. I didn't think of HST, the shuttle had
landed and MIR was no longer around since the rendezvous. So I was hesitant to 
claim it as a satellite. My wife than added "It has no blinking lights and no sound, 
so isn't it one". Again I was amazed she listened to me when I talk of satellites.

But more amazing was what followed overhead. The brightness of this thing grew
incredibly. I would estimate -4 or -5. I know what your thinking. Venus doesn't
get that bright. But this was brighter than Venus. I was just about to say that regardless
of it's trajectory, speed, lack of lights, and lack of sound (in other words all
very good evidence of a satellite) that this must be a police helicopter that just turned
its beam our way, when the thing slowly dimmed to absolute nothingness and
I turned just knowing my wife would and did say "Isn't that what it would look
like as it goes into the earth's shadow?".

So a very humbled self could only say "ahhhhh! Geee! It sure looked like one" and
as soon as we got home I checked the listing to see that, indeed, it was HST. And
I guess we were treated to an amazing reflection off the solar panels. 

It was about 9:34 due south heading east about 30 degrees up. That's approximately
118 w long and 34 n lat.

So just when you think you're boring them to tears, you may be but they actually could be retaining something as the student treated the professor to the best satellite show
he's ever seen.