The earlier orbits and ephemerides for the Soviet satellites were not sufficiently
accurate to be very useful in making observations in Alaska. Extrapolations
from our own observations gave better predictions. This merely pointed out the fact
that rough observations of meridian transits at high latitudes will give better values
of the inclination of the orbit than precision observations at low latitudes. Hence,
it was decided to observe visually the meridian transits estimating the altitude by
noting the position with respect to the stars or using crude alidade measurements.
The times of the earlier observations were observed on a watch or clock and the clock
correction obtained from WWV. Later the times were determined with the aid of stop
watches, taking time intervals from WWV signals.
This rather meager program of optical observations of the Soviet satellites was
undertaken to give supplementary data for use of the radio observations, and particularly
to assist in the prediction of position of the satellite so that the 61-foot
radar of Stanford Research Institute could be set accurately enough to observe it
(the beam width at the half-power points is about 3°).
This report contains primarily the visual observations made at the Geophysical
Institute by various members of the staff, and a series of observations by Olaf
Halverson at Nome, Alaska. In addition there is a short discussion of the geometry
of the trajectory, the illumination of a circumpolar satellite, and a note on the
evaluation of Brouwer's moment factors.
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