ISS and Iridium Flares
Posted 13 September 2013 - 01:55 PM
Posted 13 September 2013 - 02:24 PM
The ISS on the other hand is a large object with many surfaces which are painted bright colors. You are simply seeing a reflection of a very large object which is reflecting sunlight in every direction. The ISS and all its modules, antennas, and solar arrays is about the size of a football field. It is also not flying very high up as it is in a low earth orbit. Seeing the ISS reflect light at night is no different than seeing a bright rescue mirror reflect light across a valley. If the angles are right even a 6" mirror can reflect light which will be seen for dozens of miles away.
I hope this makes sense to you. If you have other questions feel free to ask. I am only about 10 minutes from ISS mission control and I have worked with people who actually built components for the ISS. It is truly an awesome machine.
Posted 13 September 2013 - 02:34 PM
Posted 13 September 2013 - 02:38 PM
Posted 13 September 2013 - 05:08 PM
Posted 13 September 2013 - 05:10 PM
Check out the heavensat software. It is VERY powerful and you will be able to see a lot of satellites that Heavens-above does not list.
Posted 14 September 2013 - 09:40 AM
So, I got into tracking satellites, eventually bought an Atlas EQ-6 since it has slew speeds that can match most satellites, and use a variety of programs (love Heavensat), and all of my computers download the current ephemeris a couple of times a day. When I do public outreach events about ten times a month, I always do an ISS and Iridium flare prediction set for the crowd. in 2012 at the Grand Canyon Star Party we had overhead passes of the ISS and Hubble within about five minutes of each other, so I set up a program called Satellite Tracker to run my Atlas for both of them and while the other forty scopes were on the usual eye candy, Karina's sister Jessica and I nailed the ISS, then hopped over and picked up the Hubble. Dazzled our crowd! Yes, Karina (and her older sister Jessica, and one of her younger brothers Stephen) are so space happy they now run my scopes at GCSP.
Obin is such a super resource here. I never get a chance to help with the satellite questions, but he is so knowledgeable he provides great answers to folks. I'll add that the Iridium flares coming from the Main Mission Antennas that are angled to point down to cell phones, are about 6' by 3', three to a satellite, and covered in Mylar causing the specular reflection. Max flares are about 25 seconds because the angle from the sun to your eye has to be within a narrow range of potential. I use my own predictors like Heavensat, Satellite Tracker, Satspy (no longer published), and Mike McCant's Iridflare program, as well as web sites like Heavens Above and my other favorite site, CalSKY, which will send you an email when any satellite or flare is visible from a location you give it.
Here is Karina with my 18" that she ran in 2011 and 2012. This year, Jessica couldn't make the trip to the Grand Canyon due to her work schedule, so Karina switched over to the Atlas and my Mallincam Jr. setup and Stephen did super with the 18".
Posted 14 September 2013 - 09:54 AM
Posted 14 September 2013 - 05:06 PM
All these classic programs have been declassified by their respective agencies. It's still interesting to see how many people have either never heard of them and never taken the time to simply look up at night and watch them fly over.
Posted 14 September 2013 - 11:19 PM
It is so cool at a public star party to count down to when the ISS, or an Iridium Flare, or the Hubble will come into view. But most of the moving stars are space junk, old booster stages. The crowd thinks every moving star is the ISS
Posted 15 September 2013 - 08:16 PM
Posted 16 September 2013 - 07:21 AM
In my opinion the ELINT/SIGINT birds from various nations are the most amazing ones up there. They are doing tasks in orbit that seem like James Bond science fiction. It's too bad most people don't even take the time to look when they fly over.