Bryn Athyn College Alumni Magazine Fall/Winter 2017-18 - Page 14

OUR HISTORY The Breeze, Nov 7, 1957: Bryn Athyn Moonwatchers On the Job MOONWATCH STATION at Bryn Athyn shown here as they listened to radio contact with Russian Satellite II, this team of registered watchers met with the success they hoped for when they both visually sighted and picked up contact on their radio this Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock. Since Sunday afternoon they have been picking up Satellite II on their radio, morning and night. This is the same team that several times earlier sighted Satellite I and its rocket, not below the horizon. Satellite II will become more visible each morning, being at its best sometime between 5:30 and 5:45, this coming Saturday morning. Here, with Mrs. Robert M. Cole, chairman of the "Moonwatchers," are Kenneth Rose, at the dials; Kurt Simons, with head phones; Alfred Sandstrom, jotting the information. Among the spectators are Lyris Hyatt, time recorder; Morna Hyatt, deputy chairman; Nancy Stroh; James Carr; Rey Cooper (who spotted the Satellite II); Mary Alice Carswell, sec'y. Not shown, but a radio operator, is Robert Johns. ments. Our report to Cambridge helped to settle the uncertain knowledge of the orbit at that time.” On October 24, 1957, two days after calling in her findings, Wertha received a personalized letter from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, saying, “Congratulations on the sighting of not only the rocket but the satellite. That is just what we have been waiting for.” Another letter stated, “Please ac- cept for yourself and extend the team members my hearty congratulations for their performance. They have demonstrated that they can be depended upon.” Bryn Athyn Team Sees Sputnik II A week later, on November 1, 1957, Wertha called an emergency meeting to let her team know that she had received an urgent telegram. Russia planned to launch a new and even bigger satellite that com- ing week, and all Moonwatch teams were to be on alert. Interestingly, this second satellite carried a dog named Laika. For the next few days, during the early mornings and late evenings, the team waited and watched. This time, the team had gained a crucial team member. 14 | F A L L / W I N T E R 2 0 1 7 - 1 8 Radio-savvy Keneth Simons could hear a satellite sig- nal at least a minute before its appearance and could then put the crew on high alert. On November 6, the Bryn Athyn team spotted Sputnik II. They tracked its course to a precise degree, using Keneth’s radio signals. As Kenneth Rose wrote a couple weeks later in a student newspaper, “This was our finest hour. The simultaneous optical and radio tracking was a self-confirming observation of just what we wanted.” He added humbly, “If we have done well, we have to admit that it’s largely because we were so thoroughly enjoying the challenge of this novel job.” The next day’s local newspaper, the Evening Bul- letin, read: “Sputnik II zoomed across Philadelphia’s skies on schedule before dawn today. …The satellite was tumbling end over end. …Ground observers had some trouble spotting the sputnik while it was at its dimmest. But their annoyance was probably nothing compared with the dizzying plight of the acrobatic Red Fido riding inside the satellite. The Russians still insist that their dog is all right, but of course nobody has as yet interviewed the dog.” During the last three months of 1957, the Bryn Athyn Moonwatch team held 29 observing sessions, and had 13 total satellite sightings. Kenneth pointed out, “Only three other teams in the world were more active during that period, among them one at Cam- bridge, run by the personnel at Moonwatch Head- quarters.” Glimpsing America's First Satellite In the spring of 1958, the team participated in yet an- other historic event. The U.S. had just launched its first satellite. Up on Benade Hall’s roof, Moonwatch team member 18-year-old Kurt Simons (AA ’60) held a small radio, listening for the voice of his father and BAC alumnus, Keneth Simons, who sat in his base- ment a mile away, ear tuned to a separate radio device. Suddenly Keneth’s eager voice came through his son’s radio: “It’s just about south now, according to my antennae. It’s about the strongest I’ve ever heard it.” Moments later, the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, zipped across the night sky, and the Bryn Athyn team again made newspaper headlines for their precise re- cordings of the event. Bryn Athyn Team Sees Sputnik II Crash On April 14, 1958, the front page of the Harvard Crimson newspaper reported that Russia’s rocket