Skip to comments.Astronomy help needed
Posted on 01/15/2012 6:46:37 PM PST by Imnidiot
I need some astronomy help from the smart-guy Freepers. Short version: What can cause a satellite to suddenly glow brightly (as bright as a meteor) for a few seconds and then gradually fade? We saw it last summer on three satellites, one after another, with all 3 visible at the same time (after fading). Different areas of the sky and two different directions of travel! My first thoughts were of rotating satellites reflecting sunlight, but that didn't make sense: First time in 40 years of skywatching and I see 3 at once?? Another unlikely scenario: 3 satellites getting slagged by laser. Too goofy. I want to understand what I saw...please help! Note to Posting Police: This is my first post, so please be gentle.
Well, and aliens, of course.
I'm just a cook. So anything I say about sats is worth what it cost you.
Without a doubt it comes from the satellite(s) reflecting the sun
Quite common, and almost as common, photographed, both
intentionally, and unintentionally, not to mention, unwanted.
The last thing you need to think about are satellites.
You need to start thinking about a new FR name.
I had thought of that. I'll bet that given the exact time of the observation, lat/long, and direction of the observations some astro kind of guy would be able to id the sats individually.
#2 is correct. Satellites often have large, flat solar panels. Although they’re supposed to *absorb* sunlight and turn it into electricity, they are still shiny like glass, so the panels look like a big, if a bit dark, mirror. As the satellite flies overhead, the reflections from those mirrors might sweep over the ground. If you’re in the path, the satellite will look like it suddenly gets A LOT brighter. But then as the satellite either moves from over you, or rotates to put the reflections elsewhere, it fades again. The Iridium satellites have especially large panels and result in especially bright “flares” which can be considerably brighter than Venus and easily visible in broad daylight. Since the orientation of all those satellites is very well known, the flares are even predictable to the second, where they will appear in the sky and how bright they will be (for the Iridium satellites, not necessarily for the others). Type in your location and Heavens Above can predict the next few flares for you, and you can see just what they look like - and if that’s what you saw before that makes you ask here what it was.
I’ve seen that ...though not three at a time.
Your first thoughts...re sun light glint are correct. As a matter of fact there are web sites that will tell you , given your lat/long where and at what time to see an event !. A German site (I don’t have the web address at hand, lists this kind of data for Iridium birds for example.
A few years ago I amazed neighbors by pointing as to where to look and gave the time count down. I was the adult Mr. Wizard to the kids ;-)
If you know they were satellites, then the answer is probably a satellite flare. Iridium satellite flares can be very bright, three or four magnitues brighter than Venus. Very often they’re mistaken for UFOs. Seeing three of them closely together would be rare of course, but not impossible.
You need to start thinking about a new FR name.
I'll second that. You're obviously not.
And I note you got your query answered promptly.
Please note that Imnidiot has been around since 2000. I anxiously await his next thread in 2024! Unless the three motherships he saw have eliminated us all by then.
I have seen some really bright Iridium flares. They can be considerably brighter than Venus and can be shocking if you catch one out of the corner of your eye.
Thanks for the info and link. I couldn’t get that site to predict sightings from last summer. Dang. At least I have a plausible explanation. Still don’t understand how I’ve never seen one before and wham, three in a minute! Weird. I appreciate all the help!
Hey, he’s pacing himself!
But my question for you is why are you lying? This is most definitely not your 'first post' - as a simple search easily indicates.
Such activity is a red-flag to the 'posting police' - case you didn't realize that.
Are you saying Imnidiot is synonymous with Louis Farrakhan? Ahhhh...it’s all becoming clearer now.
Imnidiot, could you possibly have meant your first VANITY post?
And yeah look up Iridium flares, though lots of other birds flare too. Sometimes in your Schmitt-Cassegrain when you are photographing the Cone Nebula.
Saw one close to midnight, the night before last, which took me aback for a moment. Most satellites are visible, naturally, before sunrise or after sunset when the Sun is still shinning brightly far overhead. Midnight seemed odd to see one in polar orbit, heading south, so close to midnight. Then I remembered the angle of the Sun, spilling over the pole. Even so, this particular spacecraft must have been in high orbit.
Lucky you...it beamed up a Ron Paul supporter instead.
I’ve “replied” to dozens of other peoples “Posted” subjects...this is the first time I’ve ever Posted anything. I didn’t realize a Post is the same as a Reply. Forgive me...please don’t sic the police on me!
I’ve seen satellites brighten up for a few seconds and then fade to pale white. I attribute it mainly to sunlight but does anyone know if the moon casts enough light to brighten a satellite?
Farrakhan supporters and RuPaul (er Ron) Paul supporters will claim it is the work of the “mother ship.” I actually heard Calypso Louie talk about his visit to it.
My response to his claim contained the word “mother” but I don’t recall the other one being “ship”. Might have sounded a little like it, though.
Usually, it’s sunlight reflecting off spacecraft/satellites as movement/angles change and can cause reflection of intermittent light or steady light while illuminated by the sun.
When ya see it fade, the object is generally moving into the earths shadow, where sunlight cannot be reflected off the satellites surface. Simply, the object passes into the earths shadow being cast from the sun.
I believe so, at the right angles, but in very dark skies.
The Planet Venus, during certain conditions and cast shadows on earth.
Lights on earth can illuminate the bottom of clouds making them appear lit.
BTW, many times, I can often see the Planet Jupiter in broad daylight.
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