Re: Why do people look at satellites?

Date: Sun Sep 11 2011 - 00:25:16 UTC

  • Next message: Kevin Fetter: "RE: Why do people look at satellites?"

    You wrote:
    "Any goals for people,anybody have a 'must see' list they try to complete? "
    There are a few categories of objects that are worth considering though I don't know of any detailed lists. 
    First, there are geosynchronous satellites which occasionally are rather bright. There's an excellent beginner's article on this in the latest issue of Sky & Telescope magazine (you can get a digital subscription at for $29.95 for 12 issues if you're interested).
    Second, historical satellites. Just for one example, Telstar 1 is still up there and it is occasionally (for a few weeks per year?) as bright as magnitude 7 when its perigee is over your observing location. This is the satellite that broadcast the very first live transatlantic television signals back in July 1962, and at that time it was the miracle of the age. The phrase "live via satellite" used to be announced with great fanfare. During the first relay opportunity for Telstar 1, while waiting for a more newsworthy feed, Europe got to watch a few minutes of a Cubs game at Wrigley Field (I just learned this from the Wikipedia article on Telstar and was able to confirm it elsewhere ...entertaining for me right now since I can see Wrigley Field out one window of my apartment here in Chicago). You can also chase down some of the early Vanguard satellites and their rockets. These are the oldest satellites in orbit by a wide margin, launched some 63 years ago. In another twelve !
     years, they will officially qualify as antiques. Though they're mere specks of light, we have an orbiting museum of the early space age.
    Third, manned spacecraft. This is fairly obvious. I've seen a couple of the Chinese Shenzhou, a few Soyuz (before docking), Mir numerous times, Space Shuttles, ISS many times. I am hoping that the Russians will launch another Foton since these are only slightly modified developments of the original Vostok spacecraft (yes, THAT Vostok). I haven't managed any viewing opportunities of the last couple that they launched, and I think it's possible that the orbital parameters would always exclude viewing opportunities in the US. In any case, I don't think that there will be anymore 'Foton' launches. Too bad...
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