Curiosities,  Science

Early times of the ROA-Montsec Baker-Nunn camera

I found among my archives the article by Michael R. Pearlman with title «Early Experience of the SAO Satellite-Tracking Program», originally published in EOS: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union –The Weekly Newspaper of Geophysics). This piece explains the origins of the world-wide network of fast photographic cameras set up in the fifties by the United States of America (the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory), for artificial satellite follow-up. The network played an interesting role in the early times of the research on orbital dynamics, and it got the first Western measurements of the orbits of Soviet spacecraft. The article includes the first Western image of Sputnik 1 (the booster, in fact).

The Spanish station was installed at the Royal Institute and Observatory of the Navy (Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada, ROA) and the telescope was later moved to the Montsec Observatory where it still works, after a complete refurbishment. A nice story of scientific and technological continuity since the times of the Cold War.

«Early Experience of the SAO Satellite-Tracking Program», by M.R. Pearlman, EOS 64(25), June 21st 1983, pp. 417-418. Full article in pdf format, scanned.

Figures from the article in jpg format, scanned.

Fors et al., «Telescope Fabra ROA Montsec: A New Robotic Wide Field Bake-Nunn Facility», Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 125:522-538, 2013. Scientific article explaining the details of the refurbishment.