It was just too darn nice a night for me to even have a chance to go sky-watching for long. They neighbors two houses down were outside. Not sure what they were doing. They were quiet so that part was nice. Their outside lights being on sucked royal donkeys. Still I was not deterred. I managed to spot three sats in about 15 minutes. Then the neighbor next door on the other side, well, the neighbor's girlfriend, decided that it was time for a smoke, so of course she had to turn on the outside light as well. So I had lights on either side of me. So I threw a mental hissy fit and headed indoors. No sense being out there when I'm in a bad mood and can't see much. Too bad, too, since there were lots of bright, hard-to-miss satellites this evening, including two passes of the ISS. I missed the longer one at 7:30pm due to a poopy diaper. It was only going to be 1 minute long and in the SE, so I really didn't have a chance on that one anyways. The next one was going to be... 4 seconds.... and still low in the west. Tomorrow, and for the next 5 days, is when the ISS passes are going to be good.
The wife got me a cool book from the library about sky watching using binoculars. In the first 5 pages I learned all kinds of shit; like where the north star is and, for people in the northern hemisphere, how it only ever deviates 1 degree in the sky from directly north at all times. the numer of degrees the north star is in the sky equals your latitude (so, in Ohio, the north star is going to be at about 45 degrees). The big dipper (the Big Bear) revolves around the north star (as does the little bear, aka the little dipper - which I saw for the first time this evening). Your fist, held at an arms length measures about 10 degrees in the sky (this helps when the charts say a satellite is going to be at 40 degrees in the east, you just put your fist out at the horizon, then go up 'four fists' and there you go. Holding your hand out at arms length and spreading your fingers is about 22 degrees. The span of the big dipper is about 25 degrees. The north star is slightly yellow which helps identify it as well. Good stuff.
Huh... I just realized I didn't put in the two satellites I saw on Saturday morning. I put those in this post as well. Lil N accompanied me outside and was hunting for coyotes. It was cute. I didn't have any tables to go from, so it was just a matter of me watching the sky. Sometimes it's nice to just look for them without any real direction. It's more of a surprise when you spot them.
Here's the time-line of the morning of:
Date: 23-Oct-2010 Saturday
6:53am - SeaSat 1 - 2.4 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1978-064-A
First sighting! This object is a satellite named SeaSat 1. It is an ocean observation satellite for monitoring ocean currents, wave heights and sea surface temperature. Launched in 1978, it was pretty impressive. It was the first satellite designed for remote sensing of the oceans. It was also the first satellite to have synthetic aperture radar (SAR) (aka, take several scans using a radar to get a picture than what is possible by just doing one scan). Ha! Get this! SeaSat operated for 10 days until it shorted out on Oct 10, 1978. Unbeknownst to the scientists who developed SEASAT, the satellite was sensitive enough to be able to detect the wakes of submerged submarines. The conspiracy theory is that the military shut down SEASAT due to concerns that possibly a foreign military might be able to intercept the data from SEASAT and use it for recon. Cool story!
7:00am - Korons-Foton Rocket - 3.3 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2009-003-B
First sighting! This object is a Tsyklon-3 rocket body. This particular rocket launched the CORONAS-Photon satellite. This is the third satellite of the Russian CORONAS (Complex ORbital Observations Near-Earth of Activity of the Sun) program and the international LWS (Living With A Star) program. The satellite was designed to "investigate the processes of free energy accumulation in the sun's atmosphere, accelerated particle phenomena and solar flares, and the correlation between solar activity and magnetic storms on Earth". Unfortunately, due to a design flaw in the power supply, it fried after 11 months of operation.
Here's the time-line of this evening:
Date: 25-Oct-2010 Monday
7:34pm - Rosat - 2.9 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1990-049-A
First sighting! This object is the German ROSAT satellite, a x-ray satellite telescope. It was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1990 using a Delta II rocket. The satellite is named after Wilhelm Röntgen (short for Röntgensatellit). It's mission was designed for 5 years, but was extended by another 4 years. It ceased operations in 1999 after several main components failed one after another. Read up on this one as some suggest it's failure was due to a cyber-attach on some of NASA computers.
7:43pm - Zi Yuan-2B -or- JB-3 - 3.1 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 202-049-A
This object is the Zi Yuan 2B satellite which is part of the Chinese Zi Yuan-2 (Resource-2) program. While this satellite was reported to be a civilian earth observation satellite, it is possibly one of the the first chinese imaging recon satellites.
7:47pm - Shijian6-3 LMr - 2.5 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2008-053-C
First sighting! This is a Long March 4B rocket used to launch one of the Shi Jian 6 pairs (6E and 6F) of satellites.