[NetBehaviour] Satellite Spotters Glimpse Secrets, and Tell Them.

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Wed Feb 6 11:17:30 CET 2008

Satellite Spotters Glimpse Secrets, and Tell Them.

When the government announced last month that a top-secret spy satellite 
would, in the next few months, come falling out of the sky, American 
officials said there was little risk to people because satellites fall 
out of orbit fairly frequently and much of the planet is covered by oceans.

But they said precious little about the satellite itself.

Such information came instead from Ted Molczan, a hobbyist who tracks 
satellites from his apartment balcony in Toronto, and fellow satellite 
spotters around the world. They have grudgingly become accustomed to 
being seen as “propeller-headed geeks” who “poke their finger in the 
eye” of the government’s satellite spymasters, Mr. Molczan said, taking 
no offense. “I have a sense of humor,” he said.

Mr. Molczan, a private energy conservation consultant, is the best known 
of the satellite spotters who, needing little more than a pair of 
binoculars, a stop watch and star charts, uncover some of the deepest of 
the government’s expensive secrets and share them on the Internet.

Thousands of people form the spotter community. Many look for historical 
relics of the early space age, working from publicly available orbital 
information. Others watch for phenomena like the distinctive flare of 
sunlight glinting off bright solar panels of some telephone satellites. 
Still others are drawn to the secretive world of spy satellites, with 
about a dozen hobbyists who do most of the observing, Mr. Molczan said.


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