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OT- Am I seeing Satellites?

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  • OT- Am I seeing Satellites?

    Most mornings, I sit in my hot tub before dawn.
    Because of where its located, I see the western half of the sky.
    I live halfway between Seattle and Vancouver BC, but both cities, and their airports and light pollution, are over my horizon, so I have a pretty clear sky with good visibility and a lot of stars.

    I see a variety of manmade objects in the sky.

    I see the Horizon Air flights from Bellingham to Seattle, which run every hour or so at that time- these are Bombardier Q400's, and though they have a theoretical cruising altitude of 25,000 feet, they fly a lot lower on the short hop, probably closer to 10,000 feet. They are bright and the flashing nav lights are clearly visible.

    Then, I see higher up, and dimmer, but still recognizably flashing lights from planes heading to and from Seattle, flying SSE to NNW, or vice versa, either heading to Alaska, or all the way over to Asia. I have flown from Seattle several times to Asia, and they always fly NNW like this on a great circle route over the Aleutians and Sahkalin island.
    This is the main flight path above my house- I am too far south to see flights out of Vancouver, and looking west, so I dont see any flights NE out of Seattle.

    But then, there is third category of moving lights I see. These are all a lot higher up, with no discernable flashing lights, just steady ones. Although maybe they are high enough that its just my perception that they are steady.
    These lights fly in odd directions- for instance, due north. Or, the other day, I saw one going due west. Both are directions in which there are few, if any cities or airports- particularly due west, where, from my place, there is virtually nothing til you hit japan. And, as mentioned, commercial flights, as far as I know, dont fly due west.

    So- the question is- could I be seeing satellites, especially since its usually only an hour or so before dawn, and the sun could easily be reflecting on them that high.
    Or- am I seeing oddball military or cargo flight paths?

  • #2
    Yes - you can see satellites just after sunset and just before dawn. Grab some binoculars for a slightly better look.


    • #3
      Could be alien vessels, but probably is satellites....You se them zooming across the sky as they have to keep moving to stay at a low altitude.... The geostationay satellites are 35,786 km's from the earth...
      Precision takes time.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Ries
        So- the question is- could I be seeing satellites, especially since its usually only an hour or so before dawn, and the sun could easily be reflecting on them that high.
        Or- am I seeing oddball military or cargo flight paths?
        No blinking lights, just steady going from horizon to horizon, then it could very well be a satellite.

        If you want to see something neat, check out iridium flares or the ISS. Iridium flares can be bright enough to see during daylight.

        Heavens Above can show you when the iridium sats are in the right position, the flares only last seconds.


        • #5
          If you sign up on NASA's Web page they will email you when any paticular satillight will be over your location. or you can look them up on the site.

          I would rather have tools that I never use, than not have a tool I need.


          • #6
            I would venture to guess what you are seeing are satellites.
            On clear dark nights I quite offten look above and am constantly amazed at the amount of satellite traffic up there.
            The international space station, when at the right angle to reflect the sun off of it's solar arrays projects a very impressive amount of light.

            Using Bellingham for a location, I have included a link for viewing times for the ISS in your area for the next couple of weeks.
            Try to view it a few times as some are truly impressive.
            Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
            Bad Decisions Make Good Stories


            • #7
              Last summer while backpacking in the rockies, we saw the ISS go over with the shuttle right behind it. i wish i had a good camera up there with me...


              • #8
                YES, those would be satellites.
                I was on vacation in the Pecos Mountains just north of Santa Fe, NM. and it was a dark night, without any light-pollution.
                I sat in a chair, drank some beer and bourbon, and watched the stars/satellites overhead for hours. I loved it.


                • #9
                  Well, I wanted to see what you were talking about so I got up early, put on my heavy winter parka AS I AIN'T GOT NO FREAKING HOT TUB and gazed upward. I looked till my eyes strained but my darn teeth were slamming back and forth as I shivered so all the heavens looked like double vision.

                  After wading through the snow to the barn I dug out my binoculars I keep by the door to watch wildlife. They were nearly frozen as I tried to get them adjusted to the frost on my eyebrows. I don't HAVE NO FREAKING HOT TUB TO GET INTO BEFORE DAWN so it gets pretty cold out there. The binoculars made a difference. Now instead of seeing double I was seeing quadruple. When I made it to the house my wife poured warm water on the binoculars to remove them from my eye sockets. The hell with whatever it is you are seeing. How hard are those hot tubs to install?
                  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                  Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

                  It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


                  • #10
                    Built mine which is outside. Used 2x6 cedar and electrics to heat and pump. Made a vinyl liner which keeps the water in a little longer. Simple to build round like a wine vat. Peter
                    The difficult done right away. the impossible takes a little time.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Ries
                      So- the question is- could I be seeing satellites,
                      Yaa they are probably just satellites. But if they come down and want to take you for a ride I might be concerned.


                      • #12
                        If they are visable to the naked eye they are most likley the NOAA polar obiting weather sats. Aprox. altitude of about 600 miles.
                        Morning passes are decending and evening passes are acending.
                        I have a receiver and program that allows me to track the sats and receive the raw picture data.



                        • #13
                          sounds like they are satellites.

                          Not dark enough here at the vast majority of times in the next month to see the ISS.
                          Sunset is close to 7pm here already, and its still pretty light even at 8pm.

                          NO snow here.
                          We had the hottest January ever recorded, snowpack is way down, and we rely on snowpack for summer water use, so we are basically in unusually hot drought conditions this winter.

                          Course, thats par for the course for most of the world- besides the snow in the eastern USA, the rest of the world had one of the hottest January's in the last 30 or 40 years.

                          But I still somehow brave the 45 degree heat and get in the hot tub anyway...

                          No sign of any aliens yet- but I have a family of bald eagles about 200 feet from the hot tub, they probably scare away UFO's.


                          • #14
                            They are satellites. There are hundreds of them in polar orbits. Here is a photo that I processed to show the very faintest parts of the image. It screws up the rest of the image but the lines you see are the tracks of satellites that passed overhead in just 4 minutes in the sky to the north. Some are weather satellites, some are communication satellites and some are spy satellites. If you ever see a triangle of three dim lights moving together you are looking at what is called a spy satellite "triad".
                            That is what the two parallel tracks are from.

                            Look for the ISS anyway. If it is early evening or late morning it can be seen in the daylight. If you know where to look Venus can also be seen in broad daylight at certain times of year.
                            Last edited by Evan; 03-03-2010, 07:50 PM.
                            Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                            • #15
                              True most do not seem to blink blink but some are rotating and will blink with a periodic flash. there are also some that are not under control any more and just tumble chaotically. Keep a cheap second hand store pair of binoculars out by the hot tub to get a better look ... at whatever.
                              Tom C
                              ... nice weather eh?