How to spot satellites using the website

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 1.08.51 PMFirst things first, open up the website in your browser. Before you get started it is important to know the website does not know where you live and thus can’t tell you which satellites are visible from your location. You need to click on the location in the top right (like the image shown) to update it to your location. After you are taken to a page where you can enter your zip, your city, your coordinates… pretty much however you feel like telling the site where you are in the search field, the site will then pull up all the details on that location so you can press update and can start retrieving your personal satellite guide.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 1.17.14 PMNow you are back at the home site. If you are searching for a specific satellite, use the 10-Day predictions to see your options for finding one of them. One of my personal favorite links Heavens Above provides is a list of all the visible satellites for every morning/night. This list is under “Daily predictions for brighter satellites.” I’d recommend, if it is you first time looking for a satellite besides the ISS and Iridium Flares, you limit the list to a minimum brightness of 3.0 and lower and first attempt to spot satellites with a 2.0 brightness and lower. This goes for the 10-Day predictions too. It is sometimes best to wait a couple of days for a brighter pass; most of those can shine even below a 1 in apparent magnitude. Again, like the ISS and Iridium Flares, if you don’t find a time that works with a good apparent magnitude, just scroll to another 10 days for a new set of dates and times.

So you have picked out the satellites and times you are going to try to spot, how do you spot it?

If you are looking at a specific satellite, its directions will look like this:

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Or if you are looking at the Daily predictions site it will look like this:

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Pretty much the same thing except date and satellite are switched. The important part is the information that comes after. So it tells you for each pass where in the sky the satellite will be during its start, itsΒ highest point in the sky, and its end.Β Time is pretty self explanatory but the other two I will talk you through. Although Azimuth is a big scary name, that is just telling you in which direction of the cardinal directions to look (NSEW). If you don’t know exactly where north is from where you are, you will need to bring a compass with you to your site… or use the compass on your phone if you don’t have one or are too lazy to go digging through the house for it. The Altitude is how high in the sky you need to be looking: 0 is the horizon and 90 is if you were to look straight up. So something starting at 10 is starting pretty low in the sky. The tricky part about this is that the lower in the sky you are looking the more atmosphere is going to distort your image. Thus when I go looking for satellites, I usually only attempt when the highest point has an altitude above 45. I would recommend if this is your first time looking for a satellite to try for a time when the highest point is around 80 and above. It will be easier to track it higher in the sky.

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