Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 255
Creators:
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Moonwatch Division
Dates:
1956-1975
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
24 cu. ft. (24 record storage boxes)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Introduction
Introduction
This finding aid was digitized with funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
These records document the history of the Moonwatch Division and the volunteer Flight Officer Network. They include the outgoing correspondence of Albert Werner, 1968-1975; general correspondence of the Moonwatch Division, 1957-1975; Moonwatch station files, 1956-1975, including correspondence and other data from American and foreign Moonwatch teams; Moonwatch administrative files, 1956-1975; Moonwatch project files, 1962-1973, including correspondence and reports on various comets, satellites, and other projects assigned to Moonwatch to track; the incoming and outgoing correspondence of Herbert E. Roth, 1966-1975; general correspondence of the VFON, 1969-1975; VFON airline files, 1963-1975, containing correspondence and sighting reports from member airlines; VFON administrative files, 1963-1975; Moonwatch and VFON newsletters and bulletins, 1956-1975; and a small number of slides, tapes, and movies.

Historical Note
Historical Note
The Moonwatch Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory was created in 1956 as part of the Satellite Tracking Program established to track and photograph the artificial earth satellites to be launched during the International Geophysical Year, 1957-1958. The surprise launch of Sputnik in 1957 generated much enthusiasm for the satellite program. Amateur astronomers, often supported by local businesses and schools, formed groups of volunteers who manned rows of telescopes searching for satellites. The Moonwatch Division directed and instructed the observers, loaned them equipment, and tabulated the data collected. Scientists were named in other parts of the world to help establish Moonwatch teams in many foreign countries. Gradually many "teams" came to be composed of a single observer, highly skilled in satellite tracking and often affiliated with a local observatory or university. Until its termination in 1975, the Moonwatch Division coordinated this network of volunteers and amassed a total of nearly 400,000 observations of satellites. Directors of the Division included Armand N. Spitz, 1956-1957; Leon Campbell, Jr., 1957-1962; Richard C. Vanderburgh, 1962-1964; William P. Hirst, 1964-1968; and Albert Werner, 1968-1975.
The Volunteer Flight Officer Network (VFON) was established in 1963 by Denver Moonwatch team leader Herbert E. Roth to collect eyewitness reports of satellites and meteor sightings from airline pilots and other flight personnel. Roth was employed by United Air Lines, which agreed to support the project by providing printing and mailing funds. In 1965 the VFON became affiliated with Moonwatch, which advised Roth and assumed a part of the mailing expenses. In 1969 Moonwatch assumed complete administrative control of the VFON under a contract with the United States Air Force. Before its termination in 1975, the VFON had grown to include the employees of 118 airlines in 57 countries and had collected approximately 4200 observations. Roth was its sole director.

Notes
SI Records

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 255, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Moonwatch Division, Records

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Werner, Albert Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Roth, Herbert E. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Spitz, Armand Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Campbell, Leon, Jr. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Vanderburgh, Richard C. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hirst, William P. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Moonwatch Division. Volunteer Flight Officer Network Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Satellite Tracking Program Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sputnik (Spacecraft) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United Air Lines, Inc. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Air Force Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
International Geophysical Year, 1957-1958 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Astrophysical observatories Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motion pictures (visual works) Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Clippings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white transparencies Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Washington, D.C.
Contact us at osiaref@si.edu