Finally A Good Clear Evening

Ron Lee (ronlee@pcisys.net)
Fri, 04 Jun 1999 14:06:52 -0600

Recently we have had the return of afternoon and evening thunderstorms.
That combined with a full moon just prior made observing less than
desirable.  Yesterday it cleared, the moon was gone and I finally had
a chance to do some general astronomy observing and satellite obs.

Mars seemed unusually red tonight.  Of course it is near Spica which
I use to align my digital setting circles on the Celestron when I 
observe faint satellites.

My first obs was of #20390, which Paul Maley had observed as flashing at
4-5 times per second.  I saw it in the west, azimuth 270 and elevation 19
at 21:18 local (MDT= UT-6). In binoculars it was faint in the twilight
but it did appear to exhibit the rapid flashing Paul mentioned.

Soon thereafter Mir came by moving south. Not a bright pass but ok for 
naked eye purposes.

Using the 8", I observed Molniya 3-14 at 4:09:32.6 UT on 4 Jun 99
at RA 14:21.8 and DEC +16:15.7 (J2000).  I used the Satevo derived  elset
below. It was on track but two minutes later. It was faint and MAY have
been tumbling.

NORAD( 3)=12133
1 12133U 81002A   99155.22027212  .04410020  41513-3  28583-3 0 91503 
2 12133  61.8643  48.3780 5132346 278.4798  28.8999  5.67429166 48530 

I was hoping to use IOD or another element set correction program to 
modify the elset in case it is "lost" soon but suspect that a single 
position may not be adequate.  Comments from the experts are welcome.

A week or so ago I caught the FltSatCom 4 rkt unexpectedly and thought
it had accelerated from the 8.6 sec period from a year ago.  I observed it
at 9.06 seconds last night. PPAS format follows:

Ron Lee, RGL, Lat = 38.9478, Long = -104.5614, Alt = 2073 m

80-087B 99-06-04 05:36      RGL  226.5 1.0  25  9.06     ssm 

There were obvious flashes between the main one that I used to make this
timing.  Perhaps Paul Maley could record it on a close range pass.  I 
am also interested in knowing what type camcorder is suitable for 
recording such objects as flashing satellites.

UNIDs:  I often see several satellites while waiting for one of interest
or while doing binocular or telescopic astronomy. Last night was no exception.
Usually I try to make a mental note of position and time but typically
forget the details. This time I wrote down two for later checking.

The first was north of Leo.  At about 4:35 UT (4 Jun) I saw a faint flasher
in binoculars moving S/SE quickly.  After checking the time, I was unable to
reacquire the satellite so details are sketchy.  The closest object in
trajectory is #4922, but I may be off 20-30 degrees in inclination.  At 
that time it was at about azimuth 295 and elevation 34.  #4922 passed by 7
minutes earlier so it is not what I saw.  

The second UNID was better. I was observing in the 8" and noticed a slow
moving satellite.  Based on its path, I guessed that it was a Molniya.
Running Skymap and Alldat.tle showed a perfect match with Molniya 3-44.
I did not check it range but I would have expected it to be brighter
coming out of perigee and being in the south.

I wanted to observe the Nimiq-1 Blok DM rocket and Kitsat and Tubsat but
they came around too late for me.  In a few days we should have Globalstar
and Iridium launches to look forward too.   I already posted a prelaunch
elset for Globalstar and will provide one for Iridium once the launch time
is released. 

As far as Shuttle re-entry, does anyone know the groundtrack and possible
sighting opportunities?

Ron Lee