Asteroids and Satellites

by Bob Czerwinski

About midnight last night, I was out chasing asteroids with my 12.5" Newt/Dob. Among my targets for the night were (from SW to SE) 39 Laetitia, 41 Daphne, 97 Klotho, 37 Fides, 11 Parthenope, 89 Julia, 19 Fortuna, 313 Chaldaea and 78 Diana. I had 24 Themis on my list, but never made it that far. Observing 'stroids over a few nights' time, it's fun watching these things move against the background stars. The ones that don't seem to change position, and just get brighter and brighter and brighter, are the ones that worry me. <grin>

At the same time that I was hunting asteroids, another amateur, who was out with binoculars observing the sky in Sextans, was confident that he spotted a couple of geostationary satellites, at about mag. 4.5, drifting slowly east against the background of stars. He's also confident that he could pick them up without optical aid. Considering the Earth-Sun position, it looks like a proper sunlight-reflection path would have existed at that point in time, making these particular satellites much brighter than normal.

Question: Has anybody out there been able to spot geostationary satellites nekked-eye before? How 'bout with binos? I've only tried with a 'scope myself, but this sounds pretty fascinating. Anybody know how bright some of these geostationary sats can get?