Have you ever looked up at the sky in the dusk and dawn hours and caught a glimpse of a moving star? These are most likely satellites placed in low Earth orbit. Whether it’s a hobby of yours that you continuously practice or just something you observe spontaneously, this article will teach you how to spot and track satellites and marvel at the wonder that is outer space.
What To Look For
Satellite watching is typically done with the naked eye or with the aid of binoculars. If you’re using high-power binoculars, it’s suggested that you bring a tripod because higher power binoculars tend to be shaky. To spot a satellite, look for a star that looks like it’s moving slowly across the dark sky. The odds are that you’ll most likely spot one of the tens of thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth within 15 minutes. Satellites are usually visible for several minutes, however, some can be seen traveling for longer. It’s important to keep in mind that unlike planes, satellites don’t leave contrails. They sustain a steady brightness and follow consistent direction and speed across the sky. Unlike meteors which are red or orange, satellites are yellow due to the sun’s reflected light.
When and Where To Look
Unless you’re spotting a specific super-bright satellite, you need to head out to the country or suburbs and distance yourself from the city lights. Face south (or north, if you’re in the southern hemisphere) because most satellites orbit the equator of the Earth. The ideal time to spot satellites is just after dark or before dawn when the sun is a few degrees beneath the horizon. Occasionally they might disappear if they move into the Earth’s shadow, specifically during the middle of the night, when the Earth blocks the sun from the satellites as they pass overhead.
Satellite Tracking Programs
Whether you want to locate a specific satellite or are just generally curious, there are several satellite tracking programs, both online and offline, that can give you the sky coordinates for any satellite object at a given time and location. Based on your location, most satellite tracking apps will show you a list of satellites that are expected to pass by your set location. Moreover, you can view and purchase satellite images via an app in real-time. The images are usually affordable, high in resolution, and easy to purchase, making a great addition to your collection.
Locating a small or indistinct satellite with your naked eye can be hard to do. You’ll need to know the precise time that the chosen satellite is going to pass near a bright star. Using a satellite tracking app can show you the predicted path of the selected satellite and even give you a local sky chart with time-marked paths, making satellite tracking easier than ever.
You don’t have to have serious knowledge of astronomy, physics, or mathematics to spot, identify, and track satellites. All you need to do is stare into space on a clear, dark night and this guide will walk you through the rest. The sky is no limit, so look up and discover what’s going on overhead!