Tracking Satellites Through GEOSat Eclipse Season

Credit: Boeing.Turns out, we actually understand less about the population of satellites in high Earth orbits (HEO) than we believed. The Clarke Belt is bigger than low Earth orbit (LEO) in terms of large volume and area, its likewise getting crowded. A particles crash with Telkom-1 occurred in 2017, disabling the satellite.

Experienced observers are very knowledgeable about seeing satellites in low Earth orbit, as these modern-day artificial sky phantoms lit by sunshine grace the dawn or sunset sky. Sometimes, you might even see a flare from a passing satellite, as a reflective solar panel captures the last rays of sunshine passing overhead just right …

Types of satellite orbits. Credit: Dave Dickinson.The first satellite successfully placed in GEO was Syncom 2 in 1963. Many of these are weather condition or communications satellites, and a large portion are classified spy satellites.

Certain regions along the celestial equator are well-known for GEOSats. Operating at the Flandrau Observatory on the University of Arizona campus years ago, I would see GEOSats slowly nodding from north-to-south and then back once again throughout specific times of the year, while displaying the Orion Nebula (M42) to the public.

See the sky enough time, and youre bound to see one.

Flaring zones for the particular hemispheres in March. Credit: Dave Dickinson/Stellarium. Geosynchronous orbit is the crucial point 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) from the Earths surface at which, when you position a satellite there, it orbits the Earth once every 24 hours and stays fixed over a provided point and longitude on the Earths surface. Location a geosynchronous satellite in a no degree disposition orbit, and its likewise geostationary. Futurist, science fiction author and amateur astronomer Arthur C. Clarke first blogged about the coming value of geostationary orbit in 1945 (over a years before the start of the Space Age), and the zone is sometimes referred to as the Clarke Belt in his honor.

You can spot GEOSat satellites in distant orbits … if you understand exactly where and when to look.

Right around either equinox in March or September is a great time to attempt and spy satellites in GEO as they reach near 100% lighting opposite to the Sun, before going into the Earths shadow and winking out. This biannual incident neither either equinox is often called GEOSat flare & & eclipse season.

But look closely along either side of the celestial equator (the fictional line that the Earths equator traces on the sky) at specific times of the year, and you might just see the ghostly flare of a distant GEOSat (geosynchronous satellite), as it quickly lightens up into visibility and fades away.

Flares, Flashers and Tumblers

A great time to capture this phenomenon remains in the Spring and the Fall near either equinoctial point at local midnight, as the Earths shadow transits the meridian.

In LEO, the first generation of Iridium satellites faithfully put on a show through the first 2 decades of the 21st century, though the 2nd generation of Iridium satellites arent as spectacular. Long chains of Starlink satellites will flare on event– in spite of visors implied to reduce exposure– as the individual single panel connected to each satellite glints in the sunshine.

You can see this on wide-field direct exposures of the sky throughout time-lapses: shooting star trails, GEO satellites will appear stationary … however track the sky during a direct exposure, and its the GEOSats themselves that will turn up as tracks throughout the image. On average, GEOSats shine at about magnitude +10, but they can flare up into the noticeable magnitude range before striking the Earths shadow, which is about 13.5 degrees throughout at GEO. Satellites at GEO take about 54 minutes to traverse the shadow, previously striking sunlight once again.

What Sat is That?

The LAGEOS-1 plate. Credit: NASA/GSFC If skies are clear, dont miss out on an opportunity to see these distant orbital guards over the coming weeks.

Understanding simply what satellite your seeing is likewise handy. CalSKY– when a great resource to peg what GEOSats in view for your location– is no more. Comparing the existing list of GEOSats against longitude slots can assist you in your quest: the complimentary desktop planetarium software application program Stellarium also lists unclassified GEOSats, and can assist you cinch a recognition.

Credit: EchoStar/SSLWith no atmospheric drag, GEO satellites are in very steady orbits over time, and may in reality serve as the longest lasting artifacts our civilization has ever produced. In 1976, Carl Sagan developed a plate that is now affixed to the LAGEOS-1 satellite, revealing the geological positions of the continents of the Earth over time.

Geosynchronous orbit is the important point 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) from the Earths surface at which, when you put a satellite there, it orbits the Earth as soon as every 24 hours and stays repaired over an offered point and longitude on the Earths surface. Numerous of these are weather condition or communications satellites, and a large part are classified spy satellites. In LEO, the very first generation of Iridium satellites consistently put on a show through the very first 2 decades of the 21st century, though the second generation of Iridium satellites arent as magnificent. Long chains of Starlink satellites will flare on occasion– despite visors suggested to alleviate exposure– as the individual single panel connected to each satellite sparkles in the sunshine. Excellent examples are the stopped working Hitomi X-ray observatory, the U.S.s enigmatic disappearing Lacrosse-5 spy satellite and, (till it reentered just recently), Indonesias stopped working Telkom-3 satellite.

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Lead image credit: A flare from the IGS 1B satellite in GEO orbit. Image credit and copyright: Marco Langbroek.