View Full Version : Satellites in orbit

2005-Mar-12, 04:35 PM
On the night of Mar 11 (cst), our local club was participating in our 2nd sponsored marathon. About 3AM, while looking for M-71, I saw four (that's right) four satellites moving from north to south in the field of view of a 9x50 viewfinder. I was able to keep tracking all of the satellites and got a confirmation from 2 other clubmembers by having them look and track the satellites in my viewfinder. (They only confirmed 3). We were all so excited, I can't confirm the exact time so the timing is a "best estimate". I don't have updated satellite tracking software so was wondering if anyone could shed any light on what we were seeing.
Thanks, James

2005-Mar-12, 11:21 PM
It should be possible to identify them, but some more information is needed. Like your location at the time of sighting (lat and long would be best, as precisely as possible). The brightness of the satelites also would be helpful. You already gave your best estimate of the time, location in the sky (neam M71). Casn you give a more precise estimate of direction of motion than just north to south? If not, I can take a crack with just that data.

2005-Mar-13, 03:21 AM
Thanks for your response. The exact location was 32.47n and 96.42w (lipan,Tx). Looking almost due east towards M-71, all the satellites were traveling in what would appear to be a due north to south direction. None of the satellites were visible to the naked eye but appeared to be very bright in the 9x50 finder scope. During the short period of observation, probably something less than 1 minute total, all of the satellites maintained a fairly stable position with respect to one another. We didn't track them for a longer period of time because we lost them while switching between observers.
The thing that was most unusual was the fact that all could be seen together at one time in the finder. I have visually seen two satellites moving in the same general direction before but nothing that would appear to be so near either in azimuth or elevation. The whole incident was exciting to see and I just wanted to pass it along.

2005-Mar-13, 05:35 AM
there's so much junk up there, you wouldn't believe---my cousin's husband was the math man that controlled shuttle/missle burns and kept track of the space-junk--there's a lot up there---many 'pro/am' astronomers are *****in'---

the neatest deal is to see the space-station & shuttle approaching 'dock'---in florida we get good views---deep twilight and 2 venus-bright objects zipping right over---unforgettable---on a regular observing schedule, i'd keep a 35mm, digital, whatever, held aside for capturing 're-entry' of space 'junk'---happens frequently.

2005-Mar-16, 01:48 AM
My first thought was that this was probably from a recent launch - when satelites are being deployed, they are found near each other for a few hours. But it doesn't appear that there was a candidate launch at about that time.

The next thought was one of the NOSS groups - these are satelites that actually fly in formation - groups of either 2 or 3 (not 4). They're American naval recon satelites. I asked for some help on the SeeSat-L mailing list, and got several responses, all of which suggested NOSS groups.

One suggested this pass: Heavens Above Details (http://www.heavens-above.com/PassDetails.asp?SatID=21799&lat=32.47&lng=-96.42&alt=0&loc=Jeff%27s+Home&TZ=CST&Date=38422.4184350919) of Noss 2-2. There are three of these satelites, not 4, and the pass is an hour later than you indicated, but... (BTW, this correspondant said, "Sounds like your near my "old stompin' grounds", I used to skydive at the Segoville Airport - a dirt strip owned by an older gentleman named George. Are you or your observer familiar?")

Another suggested two possible passes of NOSS pairs around the time you indicated, both slightly above M71. One pass was at 8:15 and the other at 9:30 UTC - about 2:15 and 3:30 cst, if I've done the math right. I'll try to attach the starmap he so graciously forwarded. He included a circle indicating the field of view of a finder scope, centered on M71. Since none fall in the circle, he asks whether the finder was centered on M71. The image includes 6 tracks, because the rocket boosters from both launches also went through the area during the interval, but not together with the satelites. Again, these were only pairs of sats, not 4.

Best I could do. If you'd like to answer the guy who appears to be a neighbour of yours, I'll forward his e-mail address privately.