Originally posted by LightningStrikesHere
I had no idea you could even track this thing .
Depends what you mean by "track".
The actual setup is like this...
1. NORAD have a small number of radar station around the world.
2. When, by chance, an object in orbit passes over one of these stations, its position is detected and an orbit is calculated/updated.
3. Every few days, NORAD, out of the kindness of its heart, release data on the orbits of thousands of objects to the public. **
4. In years gone by, hobbysists would take this data (the Two Line Element thing I posted in my previous post above) and run programs on their own
computers to see where, mathematically, theoretically, the object in orbit would be.
5. Some people have since then, like n2yo, set up websites that do those calculations, so lazy users dont need to run their own programs.
So... how do you know the NORAD data is correct?
Answer: You dont.
Unless it is big enough to be visible, and hobbyists take the time to walk outside and observe the object passing overhead, then you just have to take
their word for it that the orbit data they supply is correct.
** what I meant by that is really that the only reason ANY of this orbital data is available to the public is due to the tireless efforts of Dr T.S.
Kelso, for his work over many decades.
If it wasnt for him, personally, probably NONE of these orbits would have been public. Its not like NORAD actually have to do this.
edit on 14-4-2013 by alfa1 because: (no reason given)