A couple of tips for newcomers

Ed Cannon (ecannon@mail.utexas.edu)
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 05:06:40 -0500

Wednesday evening after observing from a mid-city location 
under not-widely-enough scattered clouds and lots of 
moonlight I got to thinking about how many objects can be 
seen with just a little bit of effort and some luck.  First, 
all newcomers should know about EGP (16908, 86-61A, a.k.a. 
Ajisai -- http://www.crl.go.jp/hk/slr/satellite/ajisai.html 
-- photo included).  It requires binoculars (except perhaps 
from the summit of Mauna Kea or Cerro Tololo or somewhere 
similar!), but it is easy to find and fun to watch!  Its 
orbit is something like 1500 km, so it moves pretty slowly, 
giving the binocular observer plenty of time to scan for it.  
Then it also flashes like mad, making it easy to identify!  
Its inclination is about 50, making it well-placed for most 
observers.  Wednesday evening we had a very good pass, and 
the clouds kindly moved out of the way, so I got a good show.  

Also Wednesday evening, I was able to again find 99099 and 
Milstar 3 (25724, 99-23A) due to some luck with the clouds, 
and their magnitudes (both approx. +5.0 or perhaps somewhat 
brighter?) and slow motion which allows plenty of time for 
scanning for them.

Finally, the first object I saw Wednesday evening, with the 
Sun only 7 degrees below the horizon, was the DSP Titan IV 
(25670, 99-17B).  It probably reached about magnitude +0, 
and I was able to watch it at one-power for two full minutes 
(again, the cloud luck was good).

So I guess my tips are:  (1) if you can see some third 
magnitude stars here and there, never mind clouds or 
moonlight -- you almost certainly find some satellites, 
including some at one power; (2) if you are fairly good at 
pointing and scanning with your binoculars, there are some 
fifth-magnitude objects that you ought to try to find 
because your chances are really pretty good (i.e., "If I 
can do it, I know you can!")

Ed Cannon - ecannon@mail.utexas.edu - Austin, Texas, USA