I want to see SuitSat. Bad enough to geek out.

Path of SuitSat OK, today I did a pretty geeky, pretty cool thing. I learned that tonight is the best chance to see SuitSat for at least a week, so I spent a few hours with my Starry Night Pro software. I plotted its track overhead, with times and a Field Of View indicator overlaid on the track, in an attempt to maximize my chances. As I wrote yesterday, some people believe it is visible, but only with binoculars. But, with such a narrow Field Of View (see the red FOV circle for my Oberwerk 11×70 binoculars), it’s important to know when to look where. That’s where the geeky part comes in.

It was easy to pick 5 or so major stars along SuitSat’s track (like Iota Cephei and Alfirk, as shown in the graphic) but how could I possibly keep one eye on my watch, one eye on a list of locations and times, and two eyes in the binoculars? I needed an assistant to watch Starry Night, tell me where to point the binoculars, and count down to when SuitSat should enter and exit the FOV.

Lacking an assistant, I wrote an AppleScript. This is an English-like automation language built in to every Mac. All I needed it to do was watch the clock, and talk on cue, which is easy. So tonight, I’ll take my laptop, my tripod, and my binoculars outside, pick a spot where I can see all my target stars, run my AppleScript and wait. At 6:40:38, I’ll hear, “Suitsat will be above the horizon on my mark.” Ten seconds later, “Mark.” Then at 6:41:00, “Place Algenib off the upper left of the FOV. You have 85 seconds.” My laptop will give me some informational messages about interim azimiths and altitudes, then at 6:42:15, “SuitSat will enter the FOV three degrees below Algenib on my mark.” At 6:42:25, “Mark. Leaving the FOV on my mark.” At 6:42:39, “Mark.” and so on past Alpheratz, Iota Cephei, Alfirk, Pherkad, and finally down to Alkaid, where SuitSat enters the Earth’s shadow at 6:46:14.

I really really wish I could do all this and run my camcorder through one of the binocular’s eyepieces. If I do spot SuitSat, I may be one of a very small number to do so, so I’d like to be able to prove it. First things first—I’ll probably need a lot of luck just to spot it.

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One Comment on “I want to see SuitSat. Bad enough to geek out.”

  1. […] I can’t believe it, I just watched a SuitSat flyover! I wrote earlier today about my meticulously geeky plans to try and bag SuitSat. I just got back indoors from the attempt, and I don’t believe it, but […]

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