Sputnik 1 sighting ???

From: Tristan Cools (tristan.cools@skynet.be)
Date: Tue Nov 05 2002 - 16:36:35 EST

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    Below you will find a story about the first possibile satellite observation
    of an American ever of Sputnik 1.  I have a strong feeling that Dexter
    Stegemeyer in reality had witnessed Sputnik 1's rocket.  
    I am sure that others on this list have seen Sputnik 1 and its rocket.
    What do they think of this story ?
    Sorry for the long quoting(for once)
    >HE SITE OF Dexter Stegemeyer's old outhouse is not going to attract tour
    >But a new outhouse built on the spot where Stegemeyer's used to be now
    contains a proper plaque designating it as a historic site. Fairbanks
    scientists Neil Davis and Neal Brown visited the landmark off Miller Hill
    Road and installed the plaque in mid-October. 
    >Early on the morning of Oct. 6, 1957, Stegemeyer was in his outhouse and
    all was well with the world. The door was open. As he looked up in the sky,
    he witnessed the dawn of a new age. 
    >"Mr. Stegemeyer said he was just sitting there enjoying the beauty of the
    stars twinkling in the sky when he saw a strange moving star come up out of
    the west," Davis wrote about his neighbor who lived west of the University
    of Alaska. "From its speed and uniform passage across the sky, he knew it
    could not be an airplane, a meteor or any other familiar phenomena." 
    >What Stegemeyer saw that morning was the Sputnik I satellite as it orbited
    the Earth. The launch of Sputnik signaled the start of the Space Age and
    energized the United States during the Cold War in a way that no domestic
    technological feat could have matched. 
    >That same morning, scientists at the Geophysical Institute spotted Sputnik
    and for 20 years they were credited with being the first people in the
    Western Hemisphere to see a man-made satellite. 
    >But, Davis says of Stegemeyer, "His was the first sighting since he did
    see Sputnik lower in the western sky than did those at the Geophysical
    >Stegemeyer's story of possibly being the first American to see the
    184-pound orbiter is even included in the new book by Paul Dickson,
    "Sputnik: The Shock of the Century." 
    >The satellite, 22 inches in diameter, beeped its way around the world for
    most of that month and re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and burned up in
    early 1958. 
    >Since the outhouse story was not publicized until Davis wrote it for the
    Alaska Science Forum in 1977, three people connected with the Geophysical
    Institute were credited in the News-Miner with being the first to see
    Sputnik--graduate students Bob Leonard, Joe Pope and Professor Dr. Gian
    Carlo Rumi. 
    >They were at Ballaine Lake, where the institute had some radio astronomy
    equipment, and they picked up the signal and observed the satellite moving
    across the sky. 
    >In a talk he gave last week at the UA Museum on satellites and space
    technology in Fairbanks, Neal Brown said that the Geophysical Institute
    played a key role in the early tracking of Sputnik. 
    >Brown credited the late Bob Merritt, an electrical engineer at the
    university, for developing a system that allowed the Geophysical Institute
    to provide the first monitoring of Sputnik in the Western world. 
    >Merritt's widow, Doreen, and one of her grandchildren attended Brown's
    talk, which was dedicated to Merritt, a man who did much to develop modern
    electronic communications in Alaska. 
    >In 1957, Merritt was working on a project involving radio astronomy, and
    when the news reached Fairbanks about Sputnik at about 5 p.m. he went to
    work quickly to modify the equipment and string antennas in the trees near
    Ballaine Lake. 
    >"Bob Merritt was so creative he pulled it together all at once," said
    Brown. "Within 24 hours they had made very accurate measurements of where
    Sputnik was in the sky." 
    >He kept improving the reception over the next three days and taped the
    satellite's beeping, the recording of which was played for university
    personnel and later for students at Lathrop High School. 
    >Brown said Merritt was a genius with electronics, but he didn't care much
    for writing things down so his role in the Sputnik monitoring had to be
    pieced together later. 
    >The scientists here faced some difficulty in getting the rest of the world
    to realize their analysis was credible. "People on the East Coast didn't
    even know there was a university up here," said Brown. 
    >"It was 11 days later before they finally got the station in Lima, Peru,
    geared up enough to nail down the position of Sputnik," said Brown, which
    confirmed the earlier measurements taken in Fairbanks. 
    >The satellite had been launched in northern Russia at almost the same
    latitude of Fairbanks and its course took it almost directly over Ballaine
    Lake several times a day. The satellite was visible in the reflected
    sunlight for a few minutes each time it passed overhead when the sky was
    >Brown said he wants to track down others who helped Merritt and have
    Sputnik stories to share. He can be reached at 479-2773.
    Tristan Cools tristan.cools@skynet.be
    Belgian Working Group Satellites(BWGS) webmaster
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