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Remote Sensing of Satellite Transits

at Shanes Home (RSOSTASH)


Shane Kramer
UCCS Master of Engineering - Space Operations Program
SPCE 5105

This purpose of this paper is to detail the design, assembly, difficulties, capabilities and use of a RSOSTASH,
a budget friendly do-it-yourself system for the remote sensing of satellites transiting across either the sun or
the moon. It covers the topics of hardware selection and assembly including the selection of a telescope,
camera, filters and lenses, details the optical specifications of the system, celestial bodies, and target, and
outlines the difficulties a do-it-yourselfer might encounter when attempting to build or utilize such a system.

Shortly after I began my career in the aerospace industry, I made a trip out to an Air Force base to introduce
myself to the team on the operations floor. When I stepped out of the
elevator I came face to face with a beautiful large framed photo of a
satellite transiting the moon. I probably spent about 30 seconds looking
at it before heading to my work area for introductions. That was the
exact moment I decided I wanted to put together my own home-made
system to capture satellite transits. I read forums and blogs when the
time was available and remember the day I stumbled across a French
astrophotographers page that showed unbelievable images of the space
station (figure 1 to the left).
Over the course of 3 years I slowly began acquiring equipment. I would
rush everything out on nights where an eclipse, or super moon would
occur (and yes during the super moon eclipse), only to find out that I did
not know enough about my equipment, and how to use it. My T-Ring
adaptor did not seem to work since I could not get anything at all to come
into focus, so more often than not I resigned to using a 25 mm eyepiece,
and manually (and carefully) holding my camera up to the eyepiece to get
Figure 1. Thierry Legault ISS and How
I came to Love Astrophotography

As my motivation to learn continued to grow I noticed that the amateur

SSA community was growing. I read articles about amateur collects
against low flyers to aid in identification of space junk, and in catalog
maintenance, and even joined and participated in a survey for well-funded amateur SSA group, where I was
asked questions like, would you object to us giving you a powerful telescope and viewing platform.
Generally speaking the philosophy in the community was to get at many eyes on the problem as possible, and
worry about how to aggregate and disseminate data later.
It was during the phase where I really began to wonder what kind of contribution, if any, a person with little
to know astrophotography experience, and a limited bankroll could make. My remote sensing class offered
me an opportunity in an end-of-term real-life remote sensing project. RSOSTASH afforded me the chance to
finally scratch my astrophotography itch while learning my equipment and satisfying a course requirement.

The hardware components described in this section make up the guts of the Remote Sensing of Satellite
Transits at Shanes Home (RSOSTASH) system. They were chosen partly due to their affordability, ease of use,
and from recommendations and reviews offered by astronomy and astrophotography communities based on
a budget of $1000.

About three years ago I began researching telescopes in anticipation of a near term purchase. I decided on
the Celestron Nexstar 130SLT (figures 2,3 below) , a Newtonian reflector scope, after discussing its features
in forums, and reading various on-line reviews which claimed that the 130 was the best beginner telescope
for the price. The telescope went on sale on Amazon for $349.00 a few weeks later after I made my decision,
and was delivered shortly after I ordered it.

Figure 2. Celestron Nextstar 130 SLT

Figure 3. Nextstar 130SLT Spider Assembly

The Nextstar 130 is a Newtonian optical system (see figure 4). Newtonian reflector scopes consist of a single
parabolic primary mirror at the bottom (back) end, supported in an adjustable cell. They focus light onto a
small flat secondary mirror suspended in the center at the top (front) end in a device known as the spider. It
has legs to attach the secondary to the tube. The secondary mirror reflects the light path through 90 degrees
out to the focuser and eyepiece. The Newtonian reflector was the most common type of amateur astronomy
telescope in the middle of last century. More recently, almost all Dobsonians another very popular type of

amateur telescope have been Newtonians. Since Newtonians have just one curved optical surface they are
fairly simple (read cheap) to make well and can give superb images. The pros and cons of Newtonian
reflectors [1] are:

Best price per inch of aperture of all the designs

Optical design is relatively free of chromatic aberration
Great for viewing faint objects
Tends to have a wider field of view because of faster focal lengths (f4.5-8)
The eyepiece is comfortably placed for most observing
Since the mirror is at the bottom of the tube, dew forming on the optics is rarely a problem


Not a good daytime use telescope, as images are upside down

In fast focal ratios (f-5 or faster) stars on the very edge of the field will look like little comets this is
called coma
With large aperture Newtonian reflectors, a ladder or step-stool may be needed to view objects
directly overhead
The optics require collimation (aligning) more often than refractors or SchmidtCassegrains/Maksutovs
The open-tube design means dust, etc. can get on the mirrorskeep them capped when not in use
Large scopes need cool-down time to produce best images
Most vulnerable design as far as tube currents, thermal effects from ground, etc.
Cannot be used for Earth objects

Figure 4. Newtonian Reflector Diagram

The Celestron Nextstar 130SLT has the following specifications [2]:

Optical Design
Aperture (mm)
Focal Length
Focal Ratio
Focal Length of Eyepiece 1 (mm)
Magnification of Eyepiece 1
Focal Length of Eyepiece 2 (mm)
Magnification of Eyepiece 2
Mount Type
Accessory Tray
Highest Useful Magnification
Lowest Useful Magnification
Limiting Stellar Magnitude
Resolution (Rayleigh)
Resolution (Dawes)
Light Gathering Power (Compared to human eye)
Apparent Field of View
Linear Field of View (@1000 yds)
Secondary Mirror Obstruction
Secondary Mirror Obstruction by Diameter
Secondary Mirror Obstruction by Area
Optical Coatings
Slew Speeds
Tracking Rates
Tracking Modes
Alignment Procedures
Computer Hand Control

Newtonian Reflector
130 mm (5.12 in)
650 mm (26 in)
25 mm (0.98 in)
26 x
9 mm (0.35 in)
72 x
Motorized Altazimuth
No Tool, Quick release
307 x
19 x
1.07 arc seconds
0.89 arc seconds
345 x
91 ft (28 m)
1.7 in (43 mm)
Nine slew speeds
Sidereal (4/sec, 2/sec, 1/sec, 0.5/sec, and
32x/16x/8x/4x/2x), Solar and Lunar
Alt-Az, EQ North and EQ South
SkyAlign, Auto 2-Star Align, 1-Star Align, 2-Star
Align, Solar System Align
Fully Computerized / Flash Upgradeable
Optional SkySync GPS Accessory (93969)
2-year Telescope Warranty

Table 1. Celestron Nextstar 130SLT Specifications

2.1.1 FILTERS AND LENSES Solar filter
There are many options available to amateur astronomers for solar filtration, including filters made
specifically by telescope manufactures and, of course, home-made filters. The off-the-shelve filters sold by
many of the telescope makers are typically around $100. In order to save money I opted for the home-made
approach, which simply requires solar film, cardboard and duct tape [3]. The solar filter film I selected was
an 8 by 8 sheet of film made by Thousand Oaks Optical which is available for $17.99 on Amazon. The film is
made up of a black polymer with protective properties throughout the substrate and transmits 1/1000th of
1% of light. It is typically wrapped around the front or lens of the telescope tube using a rubber band, or can
be used to fashion a lens cap filter made from cardboard box and duct tape (illustrated at CR2 below). I went

with the lens cap-like filter idea since it seemed a little more usable and durable. Pictures of the finished solar
filter are shown below in figures 5 and 6:

Figure 5. Front side of assembled MDO5-PMSF1.0 solar filter

Figure 6. Back side of assembled MD06-PMSF1.0 solar filter Moon filter

I purchased a Celestron accessory kit recently, which included a Celestron Moon filter (which can be
purchased for $15 on Amazon). I only ended up using the moon filter during full moon shooting when the
event was bright enough to reduce detail or cause glare. The moon filter (figure 7 below) is a neutral density
filter, threaded on both sides, made from high quality optical glass, fully coated and has about a 13%
transmission factor. It has a 0.9 density, which means it reduces glare while transmitting light in a uniform
manner across the entire spectrum. While it appears to have a gray color its color doesnt affect the
wavelengths of light.

Figure 7. Celestron's moon filter Barlow Lens

The Barlow lens I used is a 2x lens with 75 mm focal length, which came in my Celestron accessory kit (it
can be bought alone for about $20). A Barlow is a negative (diverging) lens that is placed between the
objective lens or primary mirror and the eyepiece of a telescope. It increases the effective focal length of an
objective lens, thereby increasing the magnification. The idea is that 2 eyepieces and a Barlow will give you
the flexibility of magnification of 4 eyepieces, and will give higher magnifications with less powerful
eyepieces .[4]
The only real disadvantage of using a Barlow lens is that you might have a slight loss of light throughput, in
the order of 3%. Some of the numerous advantages are:

Higher magnifications can be attained with longer focal-length eyepieces than would be possible
without the Barlow. Short focal length eyepieces need optical surfaces that are more curved and
therefore are likely to introduce more aberrations.
A Barlow increases the effective focal ratio of the objective. This gives a more acute light cone, which
is less demanding of eyepiece quality because:
1. Rays at the periphery of the cone are closer to being paraxial and thus are less subject to
2. A smaller area of the field lens is used.
Many eyepieces have an eye relief (distance of exit pupil from eye lens) that is directly related to its
focal length. For example, the eye relief of a Plssl is 0.73 its focal length. Thus, with these
eyepieces, for a given magnification there will be greater eye relief with a Barlow than without.
Many eyepiece types do not work well with short focal-ratio objectives. The Barlow effectively
increases the focal ratio, allowing the eyepiece to work well.

Figure 8 below illustrates how Barlow lenses work.

Figure 8. Barlow Lens Diagram

In order to determine the amplification factor or magnification of a Barlow lens, one must know the position
of the lens relative to the eyepiece and the objective lens or primary mirror. For any given eyepiece and
objective, the Barlow-eyepiece separation and the Barlow-objective separation are related because the focal
plane of the eyepiece is the same as the focal plane of the objective-Barlow combination; as the separation
between the eyepiece and the Barlow increases, the separation of the Barlow and objective decreases.
The amplification factor of a Barlow can be increased by increasing its separation from the eyepiece using
an extension tube it must simultaneously be brought closer to the objective.
One thing that you need to watch for with Barlows used outside their design amplification factor is spherical
aberration. Spherical aberration will be minimized at the design factor, but will almost certainly be present
outside this, although it may not be discernible. [4]

I purchased an Olympus PEN EPL-1 a few years back after reading some reviews and stumbling
across a sale ($300). The camera was almost universally acclaimed as the best bang-for-the-buck
DSLR you can buy. I have been very happy with it, using it for hiking, mountain climbing, family
portraits and astrophotography. The one draw-back, which I did not learn of until I assembled
RSOSTASH, is that the EPl-1 does not support the use of a remote control. The story is actually kind of funny.
Apparently the camera is almost identical to the remote-friendly EPL-2, but Olympus decided to go out of
their way to disable the use of a remote in the cameras BIOS even though the pinouts are still available.
Apparently they wanted people to buy the EPL-1 first and then upgrade to an EPL-2 when they realized they
wanted a remote and some software upgrades. Obviously this is a pretty big setback when it comes to
astrophotography. I originally thought I would mount my camera, setup a quick shutter speed and turn on
burst mode, and simply hold down the capture button as my satellite transited across the sun or moon. Since I
do not have a remote, and since pressing the capture button on the camera causes 6-8 seconds of instability, I
simply use HD video for imaging, or rely on a 12 second delay for still images, which of course requires a little
timing. The specifications of the EPL-1 are listed in table 2 below [5].

Sensor Resolution
Optical Sensor Type
Total Pixels
Effective Screen Resolution
Optical Sensor Size
Field of View Crop Factor
Sensor Features
Sensor Material
Image Processor
Auto Focus Points (Zones) Qty
Digital Video Format
Digital Video Frame Rate
Image Recording Format
Max Image Resolution
Max Video Resolution
Light Sensitivity
Max Shutter Speed
Min Shutter Speed
Exposure Range
Min Operating Temperature
Max Operating Temperature
Image Stabilizer
Lens Mounting
Continuous Shooting Speed

4.8 in
10.58 oz
2.8 in
12.3 Megapixel
High Speed Live MOS
13.0 x 17.3mm
Supersonic Wave Filter (SWF)
N-Type Metal Oxide Semiconductor
TruePic V
TTL contrast detection
30 fps
4032 x 3024, JPG and RAW
1280 x 720
ISO 100-3200, ISO auto (200-1600)
1/4000 sec
60 sec
EV 0-18 ( ISO 100 )
32 F
104 F
optical (image sensor shift mechanism)
Micro Four Thirds
3 frames per second

Table 2. Olympus PEN EPL-1 Specifications

Figure 9. Olypus PEN EPL-1

2.2.1 Mount Assembly

In order to attach the camera to the telescope, I had to use a 4/3 T-Mount adaptor (show in figure 10 below)
which runs for about $12 on Amazon. The T-Mount adaptor allows you to connect lenses, in my case, the
Barlow assembly, to a four thirds camera.

Figure 10. Rokinon T-Mount Adaptor for Micro 4/3 T2-M43

I attached my Barlow lens (100 mm length, 75 mm focal length) made by Celestron, to my T-Ring adaptor
but when I mounted my camera to it, the focal length was long enough that I could not get the moon or sun to
come into focus, even after the focus knobs were brought all the way in. Typically these adaptors are
universal, but they did not work with my camera partly due to its crop factor. I disassembled some other
adaptors and lenses I had purchased and improvised an attachment consisting of a micro 4/3 T-ring adaptor
holding a ring from another eyepiece in place with a thumb-screw, with a Barlow lens threaded to the ring.
The new shortened assembly (55 mm) allowed for a shorter focal length so I was able to get focused images
of the two bodies. Figure 11 below shows the original (left) and modified (right) T-ring/Barlow assemblies.

Figure 11. T-Ring/Barlow Assembly, Before & After


2.3.1 Magnification
RSOSTASHs magnification can be calculated using the diagonal measure of the camera sensor, the
magnification of the Barlow lens, and the focal length of the scope. There is a 2x crop factor for my camera,
but that affects the field of view, not magnification. The relationship is:

Where, for RSOSTASH:

= 650
Barlow Magnification = 2x
Diagonal of Camera Sensor = 132 + 17.32 = 23.8388 mm

Plugging parameter above into magnification equation:

650 2

So the magnification of RSOSTASH using a 2x Barlow lens is approximately 54x. Since I shortened the Barlow
tube a little it would likely be closer to 60x.

2.4.1 Resolution
The spatial resolution represents the theoretical best resolution a system can achieve and is found using an
extension of the Rayleigh Criterion Angular Resolution Equation (shown below):

= 1.22

Where, for the Celestron Nextstar 130SLT:

h = height of target
= wavelength of light, for the sake of my calculations, I will use the mid-range visible wavelength of
.5 m
D = Diameter of aperture = 130 mm

The table below shows the theoretical best resolution of the Nextstar 130 SLT for a variety of targets:
Targets at LEO
Targets at MEO
Targets at GEO
Falcon 9 Rocket
USA 179 Rocket

400 km
160 km
2000 km
35,786 km
384,400 km
149,600,000 km
1032.2 km
3626.1 km
10615.1 km

Best Resolution
1.8769 m
.7508 m
9.3846 m
167.9189 m
1801.8462 m
701,910.3885 m
4.84339 m
17.01474903 m
49.80923373 m

Table 3. Theoretical Best Target Resolution Table

I can approximate RSOSTASHs actual resolution using the following equation:

Where, for RSOSTASH:

Apparent field of eyepiece=25 (100 / 2 /2 )

Magnification= 54.53294629

Plugging in values,

= .458438

The linear resolution formula shown below can be used to approximate linear resolution for different targets:

Actual resolution = tan(. 458438) x Target Height in Meters

The table below shows the actual resolution of the Nextstar 130 SLT for a variety of targets:
Targets at LEO
Targets at MEO
Targets at GEO
Falcon 9 Rocket
USA 179 Rocket

400 km
160 km
2000 km
35,786 km
384,400 km
149,600,000 km
1032.2 km
3626.1 km
10615.1 km

Best Resolution
3.2 m
1.28 m
16.0028 m
286.338933 m
3257.819389 m
1,267,871.437 m
8.7479 m
30.7315 m
89.9638 m

Table 4. RSOSTASH Estimated Target Resolution Table


A handful of websites and software utilities were used in the planning and prediction of transits, and
cleaning and digital image processing of the imagery. This section provides the details of each of the software
tools that were used.


The primary tool I used for transit planning was the Calskys Lunar/Solar Disk Crossings and Occultations
by Larger Satellites calculator [6]. You simply put in your location, select a date and time, and calsky will
perform propagations for all large satellites (satellites that can reach an angular size of 1/4 at perigee), for
up to two weeks into the future. I used the site for collect planning and to perform daily checks for maneuvers
and last minute transits. Examples of information obtained from Calsky are shown in section 6.


I used the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) to flip the image vertically (remember Newtonian
reflector scopes show everything upside down), to crop and clean images, and to sharpen images that were
slightly out of focus. GIMP is a free and open source, cross-platform image editor available for GNU/Linux, OS
X, Windows and more.


I used Windows Live Movie Maker (already installed on my Windows 10 machine) to perform
cleaning and manipulation of collects I took in video form. Due to the 12 second picture lag I have to use
in the absence of a remote, I typically utilize the video option on my camera for collects with short transit
times (<30 seconds). As mentioned in section 2.2 above the PEN EPL-1 is capable of obtaining video at a
resolution of 1280 x 720 at a frame rate of 30 fps. Of course when I begin recording by pressing the record
button, the whole system vibrates for about 6-8 seconds, before stabilizing and allowing the video to come
into focus. Because of this, I had to trim all of the videos I shot, to remove the initial vibrating phases.

The following procedure was used on days of collects (CT = collect time):
1) First thing in the morning Check Calsky to see if the satellite maneuvered, or if the transit
time/location had changed.
2) CT 2 hours - Check Wunderground to see if the weather is going to cooperate.
3) CT 1.5 hours Move telescope out to the collect area so the mirrors can warm/cool as
necessary. Run extension cord out to collect site.
4) CT 1.25 hours Check the camera battery pack for a charge. If low begin charging.
5) CT 1.25 hours Gently blow dust off of telescope, lenses, and mirrors with a compressor.
6) CT 1 hour First light for the collect turn on the telescope, center it on whichever celestial
body I am shooting and perform a solar system alignment procedure. Sometimes I could not
select the Sun as the alignment body so I had to go back to the main menu and turn on Sun
7) CT 45 mins Print out the Calsky report for the transit.

8) CT 30 mins Take the Calsky report and charged camera battery out to the collect site and
begin getting some calibration collects, to verify the system is focused, and in working order,
telescope aligned, and that lighting is correct.
9) CT 1 minute Begin recording video
10) Post CT Watch video and search transit quadrant for transiting body.
11) Post CT Clean up video and post it.

Astronomers and astrophotographers face a variety of challenges including tuning and optimization of the
remote sensing system, weather related problems like cloud cover and astronomical seeing effects, and
specifically in the case of those interested in imaging satellite transits, the somewhat unpredictable nature of
satellites due to maneuvers and/or inaccurate or aging element sets.
Though I had minor problems adjusting the telescope slew rate, the biggest hardware problem I had was
simply getting the T-ring adaptor and Barlow lens assembly focal length short enough for imaging of the
moon and sun. The details and mitigation of this problem are detailed above in section 2.2.1.


Ive heard radar subject matter experts at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory discuss the shortcomings of a solely
optical SSA approach on more than one occasion, their chief argument being the unpredictability of the
weather. Murphys Law was typically brought up, and I heard rumblings of when the imagery is important,
the weather wont cooperate. It turned out weather was the biggest challenge I faced during this project. I
had opportunities to get images of three transits, the last being the USA 179 on 12.5.15, which I was looking
forward to due to the larger size of the rocket body and its lower altitude. Unfortunately it was cloudy and
snowed all day. On 11.25.15, when I was calibrating my telescope and shooting the full moon, clouds quickly
rolled in and it started snowing. I suppose I can expect this kind of uncertainty living in Colorado Springs in
the winter. I am really excited to get some shots of ISS on 12.26.15 if the weather holds up, but I am not
holding my breath.
Even when I had a clear night I certainly had to deal with Astronomical seeing effects. Astronomical seeing
is the blurring and twinkling of astronomical objects such as stars caused by turbulent mixing in the Earth's
atmosphere varying the optical refractive index. Often time the edge of the moon looked as if it was melting
or boiling. There isnt really a lot one can due to mitigate this problem, other than picking a night with a
descent seeing index, and cleaning up the imagery a little bit during the image processing phase. Figure 12
below is a 2 second video which illustrates astronomical seeing effects I encountered. Fortunately astronomy
forecasts are pretty accurate and readily available for specific siting locations, and many models are available
to predict astronomical seeing effects, cloud cover, jet stream speeds, etc.

Figure 12. Astronomical Seeing Effects on 11.19.15


Another problem astrophotographers face when attempting to get imagery of satellite transits, is the
unpredictability of the satellite itself. If the propagation tool you use is relying on an aged element set, there is
a good chance the satellite will not even transit the celestial body you are looking at. In the case of the Seasat
collect (see section 6.1 below) the propagation model changed when the element set was updated, enough to
take its transit out the disk of the moon. I witnessed a maneuver or an updated element set that took a
satellite out of a transiting trajectory at least three separate times.
Lastly, there are occasions when a satellite is predicted to transit the sun or moon, but its size is small
enough or altitude high enough such that transit collects are impossible for a specific system. This occurred in
my case on the Falcon 9 collect, where the rocket body was small enough (6 m x 2.5 m, cylindrical) and the
altitude high enough (10358 km) that I could not resolve it against the sun.

As mentioned in the Software and Utilities section above, target RSOs were selected using Calskys [6]
Lunar and Solar Disk Crossing and Occultations by Large Satellites Propagator. The viewing times/angles
are calculated using my home LAT/LON position. Only satellites than can reach an angular size of at least
1"/4" (level astronomer/hobby) at perigee are taken into account. The quality of the predictions depends
strongly on those of the orbital elements used - the further the calculated event is in the future, the more the
predicted path will shift from the true satellite track. Hence, check the predictions again shortly before the
event takes place. The data is experimental (with the exception of ISS). I made arrangements to film all
transits occurring between 11.20.15 - 12.5.15.

6.1 LUNAR/SEASAT (11.25.15)


Transit Duration
Age Elements:
Azimuth Direction:
Right Ascension:
Moon Position:

Seasat (Initially expected to cross moon but updated element sets

changed transit model)
Wednesday, 25 November 2015, 12h 41m 35s
JD: 2457360.3205440 TDT: 2457360.3213317
deltaT: 68.06 sec
Apparent sidereal time: Local: 17h 31m 25.657s Greenwich: 0h 30m
(Times in MST, UTC-07:00, topocentric data for User Site, United States)
5.06.s (before maneuver)
21 m x 1.5 m, cylindrical
4.0 mag (at 1000 km, 50% illuminated)
2.6 mag (at perigee, full illumination)
Mean magnitude from visual observations
10m2 (Radar cross section)
10967 Internat. Designator: 1978-064A
743.8 x 745.9 km, 99.7min Inclination: 108.0
0.6 days
104.26 ESE (East-Southeast)
4h 24m 05.388s Apparent coordinates
+ 16 19' 01.63" Apparent coordinates
42.3 above horizon, azimuth: 104.3 ESE, -12.6 mag, phase 99.7%
Table 5. Lunar/Seasat (11.25.15) Transit Information

Figure 13. Calsky Seasat Propagation Model (After Element Set Update) Showing Transit As Seen In Newtonian Reflector
(Upside Down)

6.2 SOLAR/FALCON 9 ROCKET (12.3.15)


Transit Duration
Age Elements:
Azimuth Direction:
Right Ascension:
Sun Position:

Falcon 9 Rocket Debris

Thursday, 3 December 2015, 12h 41m 35s
JD: 2457360.3205440 TDT: 2457360.3213317
deltaT: 68.06 sec
Apparent sidereal time: Local: 17h 31m 25.657s Greenwich: 0h 30m
(Times in MST, UTC-07:00, topocentric data for User Site, United States)
6 m x 2.5 m, cylindrical
3.5 mag (at 1000 km, 50% illuminated)
0.1 mag (at perigee, full illumination)
Mean magnitude estimated from object size
20m2 (Radar cross section)
37253 Internat. Designator: 2010-066K
301.2 x 10358 km, 3.5h Inclination: 34.5
0 days
193.74 SSW (South-Southwest)
16h 38m 56.443s Apparent coordinates
-22 08' 14.99" Apparent coordinates
27.7 above horizon, azimuth: 193.7 SSW
Table 6. Solar/Falcon 9 (12.3.15) Transit Information

Figure 14. Calsky Falcon 9 Propagation Model Showing Transit As Seen In Newtonian Reflector (Upside Down)

6.3 SOLAR/USA 179 ROCKET (12.5.15)


Transit Duration
Age Elements:
Azimuth Direction:
Right Ascension:
Sun Position:

USA 179 Rocket

Saturday, 5 December 2015, 13h 18m 06s
JD: 2457362.3459005 TDT: 2457362.3466882
deltaT: 68.06 sec
Apparent sidereal time: Local: 18h 15m 55.562s Greenwich: 1h 15m
(Times in MST, UTC-07:00, topocentric data for User Site, United States)
8 m x 3 m, cylindrical
4.0 mag (at 1000 km, 50% illuminated)
0.1 mag (at perigee, full illumination)
Mean magnitude from visual observations
20m2 (Radar cross section)
28385 Internat. Designator: 2004-034B
237.7 x 8551 km, 3.09h Inclination: 57.4
0.8 days
202.57 SSW (South-Southwest)
16h 47m 44.985s Apparent coordinates
-22 24' 18.43" Apparent coordinates
25.3 above horizon, azimuth: 202.5 SSW
Table 7. Solar/USA 179 (12.5.15) Transit Information

Figure 15. Calsky USA 179 Propagation Model Showing Transit As Seen In Newtonian Reflector (Upside Down)

The following images were captured during a series of testing, calibration, and collect phases.


Figure 16. Full Moon Image From Run-For-Record Event 11.25

Figure 17. Waxing Gibbous Moon From Run-For-Record Event 11.29


Figure 18. Solar event image from 11.23, while attempting to capture Falcon 9 rocket debris


I intend to collect on ISS on 12.26.15 as it transits the sun. Obviously due to its size and low altitude,
I should be able to get some great imagery/video there.

I just purchased a 3x Barlow lens. That should give me a little more success shooting the smaller

I plan on spending some more time researching filters that would bring to focus transiting satellites
against the Sun and the Moon.

I have found many ways to hack DSLR cameras to get IR or near-IR imagery fairly cheaply. I am
hoping to throw together an IR solution in the next year or so.

Hopefully I will have more time and better weather this summer for transit collects.

It is very difficult to focus using my cameras 2.7 inch screen. Olympus offers a viewfinder for sale
for about $80 that will make focusing much easier.

Dark current and closed-lid calibration would be an interesting an possibly useful evolution.

Though I failed to get imagery of a single satellite transit, due to
weather, poor timing, and bad luck, I feel that the RSOSTASH system
was a success, or least will be, for larger LEO collects.
Utilizing COTS components, and all for the price of $800, RSOSTASH is
capable of an 8 meters resolution for target altitudes of 1000 km. There
are many potential collect candidates with altitudes or sizes conductive
to gathering images. The future additions of a 3x Barlow lens, an
infrared/near infrared camera, a camera viewfinder, and better
calibration, will enhance the capabilities of the system greatly for
another $150 - $200.
As I mentioned in section 9 above, the International Space Station will
transit the sun on 12.26.15. With a size of 109 m x 73 m, Im hoping to
get a 30 pixel x 25 pixel representation of it, if the weather cooperates,
that is. I will always be at the mercy of cloud cover, maneuvering
satellites, and old element sets, but the capabilities and more
importantly person enjoyment of a home-based remote sensing system
for transiting satellites are certainly worth the price.


Aperture - The diameter of the telescopes mirror or lens. This is the single most important factor
determining how much you can see with your telescope. In general, the bigger the telescopes aperture
the better! A bigger scope will let in more light (meaning your eyes can see faint objects better).

Astronomical seeing - The blurring and twinkling of astronomical objects such as stars caused by
turbulent mixing in the Earth's atmosphere varying the optical refractive index.

Barlow lens - A negative (diverging) lens that is placed between the objective lens or primary mirror and
the eyepiece of a telescope. It increases the effective focal length of an objective lens, thereby increasing
the magnification.

DSLR - A digital single-lens reflex camera (also called a digital SLR or DSLR) is a digital camera combining
the optics and the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor, as opposed to
photographic film. The reflex design scheme is the primary difference between a DSLR and other digital

F# - F-number (sometimes called focal ratio, f-ratio, f-stop, or relative aperture) of an optical system is
the ratio of the lens's focal length to the diameter of the entrance pupil. It is a dimensionless number that
is a quantitative measure of lens speed, and an important concept in photography. The number is
commonly notated using a hooked f, i.e. f/N, where N is the f-number.

Field of View - The extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment. In case of optical
instruments or sensors it is a solid angle through which a detector is sensitive to electromagnetic

Focal Length - The distance from the focal point of your telescope to the lens or mirror. This is not as
important as aperture for getting the best image quality. In general though, the longer the focal length, the
more magnified objects will appear, which is desirable. So keep an eye on this.

Magnification - Is determined by telescopes focal length (see above) and your eyepieces focal length.

MOS Metal Oxide Semiconductor, type of sensor used by the Olympus PEN EPL-1

Resolution - Angular resolution or spatial resolution describes the ability of any image-forming device
such as an optical or radio telescope, a microscope, a camera, or an eye, to distinguish small details of an
object, thereby making it a major determinant of image resolution.


Reneke, David. "Understanding Telescopes Whats A Newtonian Reflector davidreneke.com, Web. 2

Dec 2015. http://www.davidreneke.com/whats-a-newtonian-reflector/


"Nexstar 130SLT Computerized Telescope." Celestron.com, 25 September 2014. Web. 2 Dec 2015.


Blarmingscience. "How to make a solar filter for your telescope." Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 22 Mar. 2014. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONgXeqhNr6k>


Tonkin, Stephen. "Barlow Lenses astunit.com, 04 Aug 2004. Web. 30 Nov 2015.


"Olympus PEN E-PL1 Specifications. CNET, Web. 20 Nov 2015.



"Lunar/Solar Disk Crossings and Occultations by Larger Satellites. calsky.com, Web. 20 Nov 2015.


Pratt, W. K. [2001]. Digital Image Processing, 3rd ed., Wiley Interscience, NY.


Schott, J. R. 2007. Remote sensing: the image chain approach. 2nd ed. New York, NY, USA Oxford
University Press. 688.