Re: Number of Observable Satellites

From: ecannon@mail.utexas.edu
Date: Fri May 24 2002 - 00:34:02 EDT

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    > how many satellites the average person can see from a mag 4 sky
    
    A couple of months ago in six successive nights, from mid-city, 
    without magnification I was able to see 41 different satellites.  
    I put a little report about it online:
    
    http://wwwvms.utexas.edu/~ecannon/41seen.htm
    
    Comments on a couple of the other replies: 
    
    I wonder if Ted's limitation of one magnitude difference between 
    apogee and perigee might be a little too stringent.  I think that 
    00694 (63-047A, Atlas Centaur 2) -- a bright, lowish-inclination 
    object -- may vary by more than one magnitude between perigee and
    apogee, but *from here* it's very easy to see fairly often.
    
    I emphasized *from here* above because I also want to agree very
    much what Björn wrote about latitude.  There used to be an 
    article titled "Latitude is Everything" on the Sky & Telescope 
    Web site.  It could be reasonably applied to satellites.  Earlier 
    this evening (cloudy unfortunately) south Texas had a pass of the 
    Genesis Rk (01-034B, 26885, a Delta at an inclination 26.8 
    degrees) at less than 192 km (120 miles) above the ground.  There
    are a fair number of objects like that at low inclinations, and 
    for us who have the opportunity to see them, their perigee passes 
    can be very fast and very bright (and quite a few tumbling as well)!
    I'm still hoping to see one at 120 km (75 miles).  
    
    My .02 Euro...
    
    Ed Cannon - ecannon@mail.utexas.edu - Austin, Texas, USA
    http://wwwvms.utexas.edu/~ecannon/satellite.htm
    
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