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From: TerryMoselaol.com
Date: Sat, 4 Feb 2006 16:36:53 EST
Subject: Sputnik 1, Lectures, TV, Birmingham Planetarium

Hi all,
 
(1.)  Well! A very interesting set of replies about  the visibility of 
Sputnik 1! Thanks to all who did so.
 
Here are exerpts:
 
1. From Peter Paice, Belfast: "Hi Terry,  Margaret & I saw  the pass of 
Sputnik 1 from the back windows of our first flat in Belfast. Our  eyes were about 
25yrs. old!"
 
2.  From Alan Fox: "I saw Sputnik 2 - at least I saw a faint  moving object 
going across the sky at the time and in, roughly, the place the  media had said 
to look. I did not try to see Sputnik 1 (not sure I knew about  'til after 
the event) - so no help there. But Sputnik 2 was consistent with the  item seen."
 
3. From Dr Brendan McWilliams, Met Office, Dublin: "Incidentally, I  remember 
very clearly seeing Sputnik1.  I was 13 at the time living with my  
grandparents in Caherciveen Co Kerry, and my grandfather and I got up at about 5  in 
the morning and walked a mile or so outside the town for the predicted time.  It 
appeared right on schedule, and I seem to recall also that it moved  rather 
more rapidly [than the ISS] (perhaps 50 per cent  faster) across the sky. Again 
if my memory is correct, it moved from NE to  SW, with maximum elevation in 
the NW at about 45 degrees or somewhat  more. I can't be sure of all the 
details, or course, but I am quite sure about  seeing Sputnik."
 
4. From Dr Ian Elliott, ex-Dunsink Observatory: " Re Sputnik 1, I think I 
remember observing a satellite  with the naked eye in October 1957, though I 
thought I had to get up early to  see it.  The Dublin evening papers used to print 
predictions. I searched my  collection of pocket diaries but found that they 
go back only to 1959! Cheers, Ian"
 
5. From Denis O'Mahony, Shannonside Ast Club. "Just got your email and I  can 
confirm that I too saw the moving speck that was Sputnik with my late father  
in South Co. Wexford in October 1957. Like you, as a 10 year old, I had 
little  scientific or observational skills, but my father had read in the newspaper 
 earlier that day the predicted track in the twilight sky. I forget the  
exact date, but the sky was clear and the moving, starlike object was  
unmistakable against the deep turquoise of the fading light near the zenith.  Like you 
the event is like a movie sequence in my memory and my father's  great 
excitement on wittnessing that little spark of moving light made me  realise just how 
momentous the occasion was. Thanks again for your regular  missives. Keep up 
the good work!"  

So it seems that some of us did actually see  something, as and where 
predicted, in October 1957, the date of the Sputnik  1 launch. And of course at that 
time there was only one artificial  satellite! But what did we see? The final 
word must go to the redoubtable  authority of Leo Enright....
 
6. "Hi Terry:  Sputnik 1 was not visible from the ground (it was a 580  mm 
sphere with a mass of only 83 kg ).  However,  the booster rocket  would have 
been hard to miss (28.00 meters long,  3 meters across and  weighing 7.5 tonnes 
empty).  What shocked the West was that the Russians  orbited a total of more 
than 7.5 tonnes,  compared to just 5 kg. for  Explorer 1 
and its little rocket motor!  It was this vast "missile gap"  that Kennedy 
exploited during the 1960 election campaign.  The Americans'  puny rockets also 
led directly to the revolution in electronic miniaturisation.  Leo"
 
So Brian Beesley, my original correspondent, seems to have been right - it  
was almost certainly the final stage rocket, rather than the satellite itself.  
But maybe the media predictions didn't make that clear. In any case, we did 
see  part of the Sputnik 1 launch hardware in orbit, as predicted. And it was 
an  unforgettable, iconic, moment - the first man-made object launched into 
space:  the Dawn of the Space Age. 
 
And since then, in under 49 years? Men on the Moon; the ISS, civilians in  
space, probes to all the planets except Pluto, with one on the way there  now; 
rovers on Mars; soft landers on Venus, Titan, an asteroid, and a  comet; probes 
effectively leaving the Solar System altogether; the HST;  thousands of 
satellites in orbit; amazing scientific satellites studying the  Earth, other 
planets and deep space; Satellite TV; and GPS which  can tell you your location 
anywhere on Earth within about 5  metres....! I hope there will be appropriate 
celebrations to mark the 50th  anniversary in October 2007!
 
REMINDERS:
 
 
(2.)   Prof Alan Fitzsimmons of QUB will give a lecture to the  EAAS in 
Thompson Primary School, Ballyrobert on Monday 6 February.  Entitled, "Deep Impact, 
the Story So Far", it will begin at 8.0. Admission  3.
 
(3.)  The next IAA public lecture will be on Wed 8 February, 7.30  p.m., 
Lecture theatre 5, Stranmillis College, Stranmillis Road, Belfast. It will  be 
given by Dr Neill Trappe, of NUI Maynooth, and is entitled "Far Infrared  Space 
Optics". All welcome; admission free, including light refreshments.
 
(4.)  TV:
The Sky At Night: "On Top of the World - Observatories on Hawaii"
 
Sunday   5 Feb.  1am.- 1.45am. BBC 1
Monday  6 Feb.   7pm. - 8pm.    BBC4 (extra  15mins)
Sunday 12 Feb.  BBC 2 repeat of previous Sunday's prog.

 
(5.) Birmingham Planetarium. Following my lament about the demise of London  
Planetarium, I got this piece of brighter news from Mario di Maggio, whom  
some of you may remember from his days at Armagh, and then Glasgow,  Planetaria:
   "Sad about London Planetarium Terry, we agree. But at least  Birmingham 
now has a fabulous planetarium (the UK's first purpose-built digital  
planetarium) with three full-time astronomers on the team! Although only a  70-seater / 
10 m dome, in our first 40 days of opening we have received 6500  visitors!  
:-))  And we're planning an exciting programme for the  future, everything from 
multi-cultural astronomy shows, evening music  entertainment and loads of 
other innovative stuff. Some press coverage can be  seen here: 
www.dimaggio.org/Thinktank/media.htm  
Mario."
   So if you're ever in the Birmingham area, it sounds as if it's  worth a 
visit.
 
 
Clear Skies,
 
Terry  Moseley


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