I have recently added a specialist proofreading subject to those I handle: astronomy. Since I was a teenager I have had a deep interest in astronomy and space exploration. This was triggered by the Apollo 11 Moon landing placing the first man on the Moon. I sat up for all that July night in 1969 to watch the TV coverage – luckily it was during the school holidays so I could sleep during the next day. The landing fired my imagination and enthusiasm and was the start of a life-long passion for all things space and astronomy.
Initially it was only naked eye astronomy under the guidance of Patrick Moore. His book Naked Eye Astronomy was my first book on the subject and the first of many more I read. I progressed to high-powered binoculars that allowed me to visually track and time the transits of artificial Earth satellites with the help of computer printouts of predictions from the Satellite Orbits Group (SOG) at the Appleton Laboratory at Slough. I must have cut a rather odd figure laying back in a deckchair in the middle of the night scanning the skies for the predicted satellites. In return SOG received my readings on actual positions, timings, and brightness that helped them, along with the readings of other observers scattered around this country and in Europe, to determine the drag effect of the Earth’s atmosphere on satellite orbits. Analysis of small changes to satellite orbits reveals details of Earth’s upper atmosphere and gravity field. Also, flash observers measured the rotation of spinning satellites that helped in the understanding of the atmospheric environment, especially Earth’s magnetic field.
Space enthusiasts have found that satellite observation leads naturally into such other fields, such as orbital mechanics, applications of satellites (weather and crop monitoring), rocket propulsion, space exploration, astrophysics, and government space policy.
Oh happy days, but they are long gone. Radar and photography have partly superseded visual tracking, although some visual still takes place. But the experience gave me knowledge of the constellations and meteor showers. Even now I regularly see unlooked-for satellites passing overhead when I am using my seriously heavy, high-powered binoculars or small telescope to seek out other things in the night sky, such as the Moon, our Solar System’s planets and asteroids, and deep space objects such as other galaxies and star clusters. Being a suburban astronomer, the viewing conditions for me are not as good now as they were all those years ago, thanks to air and light pollution. There are just so many satellites and pieces of space junk from launches in orbit that it would be difficult not to see any moving lights (reflected sunlight, not artificial illumination), so that can be a consolation when viewing of other objects is disappointing. It is like seeing old friends.
I have decided that I can still make a contribution to astronomy and space exploration by proofreading books, journals, and articles on the subjects and not to let my experience and knowledge go to waste, not to mention the reference books and atlases.