It is very rare you
go out in the night sky to observe, and you fail to see a small
star like object beating a path across the sky. These small stars
are in fact man made satellites orbiting our Earth and reflecting
the sunlight as they pass overhead. Whilst they have been know
to ruin many a fine deep sky photograph by the trail left through
a long exposure, they can be quite an interesting distraction.
The trails they leave should be in no way mistaken for aircraft
Aircraft trails on
short and long exposure static camera shots. Note the vignetting
due to the lens being left wide open on the long exposure.
In addition to the
'run of the mill' satellites up there, you can also witness Iridium
Flares. These are caused by the reflections of the Iridium Solar
Panels as they reflect the Sun at your location. These can be
quite spectacular, and often shine to a magnitude of -8 - for
comparison Venus gets to its brightest at -4.5 ish, and the Moon
is -12.5 ish.
Two Iridium Flares
- A wide angle and a 50mm shot using static cameras, the magnitudes
were in the region of -5 ish from memory.
Watching these events
is not difficult. Go to the Heavens
Above web site, input
your location, and hey presto - a list of satellite passages for
your area is displayed. Other useful satellite data is also available
visible from the UK include the International Space Station, sometimes
connected to the Space Shuttle. So keep a check on Heavens Above,
and keep your eyes peeled. Using a static camera setup as described
in the 35mm imaging page can get some interesting results. Some
amateurs have actually managed to image the ISS and the Shuttle
in their telescopes - it is actually possible to see the bay doors
open! Quite incredible.
Watch this page. I
have a few small intended projects associated with satellites
to get started.
Main . Astronomical