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A Satellite Hunting Guide

Every night there is a spectacular light show right above your head. Satellites are zooming by at about 4.7 miles per second (7.7 km per second) painting streaks in the sky. In the hours close to sunrise and sunset there are satellite spottings in the double digits. All visible with the naked eye!

A satellite passes the center of our galaxy.

A satellite passes the center of our galaxy. by Kevin Baird

How exactly is this happening? When a large object in the sky catches the Sun’s rays at a certain angle and reflects it on Earth it can seem like a bright star traveling across the horizon. Similar to if you have a piece of shiny jewelry and when the Sun shines on it, you can seen that shine reflected on the wall beside you (or maybe the roof of your car) as a bright spot. This is the same phenomenon but on a much larger scale. The satellite is your piece of jewelry, the Sun is still the Sun and the Earth is your wall. This happens fairly often every night which leaves us with a fun game of search and find while we star gaze.

Before you become a full blown space detective hunting for satellites in the sky, you need to check out the first part of this series which explains how much light inhibits your viewing of the dimmer objects. Not only does it provide an explanation of where you should go star gazing, but also will familiarize you with some terms I am about to use.

Now that we are all on the same page, let’s get to the good stuff! There is pretty much one name in the game when it comes to satellites and that is Heavens-Above. Although it is not the prettiest site, it is VERY extensive and it is very simple to use. If you have an android, you are in luck because there is an app you can use!

Click here for instructions on how to use the website.

And here for those of you who want to give the Android App a shot!

Happy Observing!!

Let me know how many satellites you spot!

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