These are very peculiar object mostly
because they are man-made! A communications
satellite "constellation" - that is a group of
satellites working together - help transmit a
signal around the
Earth. The name comes from the
initial company - the Iridium Corporation - who
planned the satellite cluster to provide global
coverage for satellite communications. For more information on the satellites, visit the Iridium website.
I have yet to actually see one. All bets are off in foggy Pacifica!
||An iridium flare can look identical to a
fireball photographically - which is a very bright
meteor. These have also been mistaken for other things like
supernova because of their pulsating appearance.
The brightness of the iridium flare is the result
Sun reflecting off the surface on the
satellite. Sometimes these flares can be visible
during the daytime.
Two excellent resources to determine when an Iridium flare (as well as a host of other events) will occur:
- Heavens-Above - an online ephemeris with a simple interface
- CalSKY - another online ephemeris with an extensive list of events
You will have to register to get specific data from your location, but the process is benign.
More information can be found
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