Welcome to SeeSat

Matson, Robert (ROBERT.D.MATSON@cpmx.saic.com)
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 13:51:52 -0700

Hi TCole,

Welcome to the Seesat-L group!  We're always happy to help out newcomers.
I know that some of the posts right now may appear "over your head" as you
said, but don't let that discourage you in the least.  You'll be amazed how
friendly, helpful and professional everyone is here, and if you're not
afraid to ask questions, you're going to learn a lot very quickly.  So
will your students!  That aspect is particularly important to me because
it has been my experience that kids of all ages LOVE this stuff.  Your
students are already old enough to be quite proficient with computers,
and they're going to be able to do their own satellite predictions in no
time (if they aren't already!)

> I hope to interest my students next fall in tracking the
> Starshine satellite.

While students no doubt have a special interest in this satellite due
to their involvement with polishing its hundreds of small mirrors, I would
suggest "warming them up" on easier targets to hone their satellite
tracking skills.  That means bright targets like Mir, ISS and the Hubble
Space Telescope (HST).  In the process of looking for these brighter
satellites, they'll learn how to:

1.  retrieve satellite orbital elements from the web
2.  find their latitude and longitude using the web
3.  run a tracking program or programs
4.  measure azimuth and elevation angles
5.  set their watch to WWV or another accurate time source (and the
     importance of doing so)
6.  recognize the brighter constellations and the names of the brightest
7.  estimate visual magnitude

> In my search related to Starshine and satellites, I ran
> across some information about Iridium Flares.  I didn't
> realize the flares could be so bright.

This is an even better starting point.  Here's one procedure you and
your students can use to observe your first Iridium flare.  It's a great
learning experience as it will exercise, at the very least, 1-5 in the
above list.

1.  Download Iridium satellite orbital elements from the web.  Here's a
    very reliable source:


2.  UnZIP this file to obtain iridium.txt and iridium.tle

3.  Find your latitude and longitude to at least two decimal places.  One
    way is to go to:


    click on "Find Location", enter your address, city and state, and click
    on "Draw Map".  Once a map is drawn, click on the "Lat/Long" button,
    and then click on the map.

4.  Download the IRIDFLAR program from the web and unZIP it.  It can
    be found at:


    Follow the instructions in FLARE165.TXT.

Assuming you get everything running okay, you'll discover that Tuscaloosa
has a nice flare from Iridium 13 tonight (Monday, June 14th) at 11:00:04pm
CDT, 15 degrees above the southwest horizon (which is about 30 degrees
to the lower right of the Mars/Spica pair, and <10 degrees to the right of

Best wishes,