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Iridium Flares Revisited


TEAM 360
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Has anyone ever chased down an Iridium Flare since they were brought up last time? There is one with a -8 magnitude coming up in a week (that's pretty bright!), centered only 2 miles away from me. It's at 5:30 in the morning, so I will be getting up a bit early to catch it.

 

Has anyone chased one of these down? How cool are they to see? How long does it last?

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They last between 5 and 20 seconds, gradually fading in from black to a bright white, then fading out to black again. I've probably seen a dozen so far, the brightest was a -7. They're very cool.

 

It probably wouldn't be a good locationless, but you might make an event cache out of it. Find the coordinates of an upcoming flare's center point, and meet there as an event.

 

WWJD? JW RTFM.

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quote:
Originally posted by Doc-Dean:

What do they mean distance to flare center?


 

If you've entered your home coordinates, then the table of upcoming flares will show two orders of magnitude for the brightness: The magnitude where you are, and the magnitude for the nearest optimal viewing point. The table will say something like "3.8 miles W" That means if you go to that point, you'll be under the path of the brightest view.

 

- - - - -

Uh oh...

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The Heavens Above site is available as an Avantgo channel, so I've been keeping updated info in my PDA for awhile now. Easy and convenient...just fire up the channel, do a Find on flare, and you know if you've got some cheap thrills for the evening.

 

Max

Often wrong but seldom in doubt

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The flares are really spectacular, although short lived. By using the Heavens-Above.com predictions I’ve seen four of the flares in the daytime and a dozen or so at night. Someone said they last from 5-20 seconds, I don’t think I’ve seen any of them last for more than 5 seconds although I’ve never timed them.

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This is about the only thing I use the AvantGo channel for these days. I use plucker to sync files to my PDA. It shows other objects as well, and I used it one night to see the shuttle and the Int'l Space Station pass over with one following the other very closely after they had separated.

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I remember a couple of years ago I was up at my family's place in the White Mountians of Arizona. It was just after sunset and we were out in the meadow watching the shuttle disembark from the Mir. We were in a pretty good location to watch them from the north-western horizon all the way to the southern horizon. It lasted long enough for everyone to get a good long look at it. I don't remember how long it was, but it sure did seem like longer than a minute or so.

 

The only other time I actually witnessed the shuttle was on a hiking trip on the Mormon Battalion Trail south of Phoenix. We were hiking in the desert on a Saturday morning in December 1985, when we looked up and saw one of the shuttles riding piggyback on a 747. I'm not sure which one it was... but if I would have had binoculars, I probably could have read the name from the side. It was really weird seeing it. It couldn't have been more than a 3-4 thousand feet above us.

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I have seen a few of them, I even been 100 feet away to a -8 (but I think that sat was tumbling because it was not as neat as some others I have seen).

 

I am just wondering if any of you have seen a -9, ever once in a while a see a listing for one, but it is too far away for me to get to.

 

Wyatt W.

 

The probability of someone watching you is directly proportional to the stupidity of your actions.

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quote:
Originally posted by Cheesehead Dave:

If you've entered your home coordinates, then the table of upcoming flares will show two orders of magnitude for the brightness: The magnitude where you are, and the magnitude for the nearest optimal viewing point. The table will say something like "3.8 miles W" That means if you go to that point, you'll be under the path of the brightest view.

 


 

If Chris Peat was a geocacher, he would post the coordinates of where to see the best view. I will send him an email.

 

Good Luck Cache Baggers

- Paul Ag

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quote:
Originally posted by TEAM 360:

Has anyone ever chased down an Iridium Flare since they were brought up last time? There is one with a -8 magnitude coming up in a week (that's pretty bright!), centered only 2 miles away from me. It's at 5:30 in the morning, so I will be getting up a bit early to catch it.

 

Has anyone chased one of these down? How cool are they to see? How long does it last?


Educate me please. I've seen Iridium Flares listed at The Heavens Above but I've not been able to figure out exactly what they are.

 

Is there another site that you're getting your information from or are you using Heavens Above?

 

Webfoot frog.gif

5307_800.jpg

Yeah, sure....but did he use a GPSr to find it?

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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Ag:

If Chris Peat was a geocacher, he would post the coordinates of where to see the best view. I will send him an email.

 

Good Luck Cache Baggers

- Paul Ag


 

I am blind. He is a real geocacher. He give the coordinates. My bad.

 

Good Luck Cache Baggers

- Paul Ag

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quote:
I've not been able to figure out exactly what they are.


 

Webfoot,

They're basically just a flare of light caused by a sunlight reflection off of the Iridium satellites. Due to their design and orbit, they're pretty predictable as to when they'll be in a position to do it.

 

Kinda like the sun reflecting off a watch crystal :-)

 

Sometimes a majority only means that all the fools are on the same side

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I spend roughly the same amount of time on the Heavens Above site as this one. It's not hard to see why that site also appeals to GeoCachers or people with a head for Geography, Mapping, Geometry etc. On a philisophical note: I think this all an awesome way to celebrate the peaceful use of technology, the advancement of man's knowlege and ability and in celebrating the murky boundaries of spirituality and science! (I know: GPS tecnology is used alot in warfare, but WE are not engaging in it. Does using ammo. boxes contradict this?)

 

Anyway, Webfoot: Ccrew is right - like seeing the glint of sunlight off of the wind shield of a car passing on the freeway. As the angles of the sun and the car relative to your possition change the apparent brightness increases or decreases. The material used in the spacecraft hull is very reflective and the reflection of the sun off of it can be seen from very far away and on a predictable timetable.

 

I have observed several based on the time tables opsted on the site. I have also had success viewing close passes of the ISS and other satellites whose passes are posted!

 

Everyone enjoy the waning days of summer!

 

"Now may every living thing, young or old, weak or strong, living near or far, known or unknown, living or departed or yet unborn, may every living thing know happiness!"

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OK, I found one and got the details. I feel like I am missing something, though. Where am I supposed to LOOK for this flare? Shouldn't I have some info about what piece of sky I should be looking at?

 

Thanks if anyone can answer.

 

(oh well, nevermind. The geocache details JUST posted by Leemax explained what I needed - I think. I am more of a beginner and never really knew what the terms "azimuth" meant. I see that is included in the details. I should be able to figure it out.)

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Here's a good example of the data shown on the website. It even gives me the exactly Long/Lat to get the premium viewing.

 

Date: Saturday, 23 August, 2003

Your Location: Misawa (40.683°N, 141.400°E)

Time Zone: Japan Standard Time (GMT + 9:00)

Satellite: Iridium 5

Antenna (MMA): Left

Flare centre is at: 40.688°N, 141.364°E

Distance to centre: 3.1 km (1.9 miles)

 

At your location At flare centre

Time: 19:51:57 19:51:57

Magnitude: -6 -6

Altitude: 18° 18°

Azimuth: 353° (N ) 354° (N )

Mirror angle: 0.1° 0.0°

 

"I cache; therefore I am"

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I’ve found that it helps to have an extra set of eyes or two scanning the sky with me while trying to see a flare. If you aren’t looking in exactly the right spot all you will see is a flash of light in your peripheral field of vision and by the time you turn to look, it’s already gone.

In very dark skies you can see more of the fading in and fading out portion of the flare.

The daytime flares last for only about a second.

My guess is that you won’t be able to stop with seeing just one, although short lived they’re a spectacular sight, especially the mag. -7, 8, and 9s.

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quote:
Originally posted by Snoogans:

Interesting. Could you give more info or a link? Is it anything like the rare green flashes that happen when the sun is on the horizon?


 

Are you referring to Sun Dogs?

 

--------------------

You have the right to defend yourself, even when geocaching!

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Very cool! Nice to know that the defunct Iridium system is doing SOMETHING these days. I was expecting them to drop them a few years ago.

 

I was in wireless sales about 4 years ago when the Iridium system for paging was launched. Talk about a flop! But I digress.....I'll be adding this to my AvantGo channels.

 

Thanks for the notification.

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quote:
Originaly posted by snoogans:

Interesting. Could you give more info or a link? Is it anything like the rare green flashes that happen when the sun is on the horizon?


 

The green flash that you’re referring to is caused by sunlight from the setting sun being refracted by the atmosphere.

Blue and green are refracted higher than red and yellow so as the last of the sun slips below the horizon you may see a bluish green flash.

Conditions have to be just right to see the green flash, and they are very rare.

 

Sun Dogs are caused by sunlight or moonlight refracting off of ice crystals in the atmosphere.

They appear to the left and right of the sun or a bright full moon.

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Posted by SamLowrey

quote:
It better be bright because I have never tried this before. So, binoculars will be a hindrence, I take it? You can just look in the sky in the general direction and see a flicker - is that about the jist of it?

 

Don’t even try to use binoculars, you’ll miss it.

Get to an area with dark skies in the direction of the flare. Avoid looking at any white light for several minutes before the flare so your eyes become acclimated to the dark. Use the clock on your GPSr to know when the flare should appear and start looking around 30 seconds before the predicted time. You’ll see a very dim, star looking light slowly get brighter ,and then it will *flare* very brightly, and then fade out. The whole thing will last for not much longer than 5 seconds or so. It will appear to be moving across the sky at about the same speed as an airliner.

Good luck

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I've heard about this, but I have never gone out to see one. It looks like the -9 one on the 26th that all of you are talking about will be visible from here too. There's one on the 28th that will be centered 1.2 km from me, and says it will be the same magnitude at my place. I can stroll out the door, watch it, then finish getting ready for work!

 

"I'm 35 Years old, I am divorced, and I live in van down by the river!" - Matt Foley

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quote:
Originally posted by Scout65:

Posted by SamLowrey

quote:
It better be bright because I have never tried this before. So, binoculars will be a hindrence, I take it? You can just look in the sky in the general direction and see a flicker - is that about the jist of it?

 

Don’t even try to use binoculars, you’ll miss it.

Get to an area with dark skies in the direction of the flare. Avoid looking at any white light for several minutes before the flare so your eyes become acclimated to the dark. Use the clock on your GPSr to know when the flare should appear and start looking around 30 seconds before the predicted time. You’ll see a very dim, star looking light slowly get brighter ,and then it will *flare* very brightly, and then fade out. The whole thing will last for not much longer than 5 seconds or so. It will appear to be moving across the sky at about the same speed as an airliner.

Good luck


 

I keep hearing people talk about the clock on your GPS. IIRC (don't have it with me) the clock is just set manually, right? Or does it get the time from the satellites as well (the GPS system, not Iridium, I know) (mine's a Map 330, btw)

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quote:
Originally posted by SamLowrey:

 

I keep hearing people talk about the clock on your GPS. IIRC (don't have it with me) the clock is just set manually, right? Or does it get the time from the satellites as well (the GPS system, not Iridium, I know) (mine's a Map 330, btw)


 

The clock in your GPS is set from the satellites. Extremely accurate timing is one facet of how GPS works. The clock in your GPS is the most accurate clock you'll ever own.

 

icon_wink.gif I bought an invisible fence for my invisible dog. icon_wink.gif

 

Buzz Lightfoot

Pike County, PA

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When I was a kid, before Iridium sats, I looked up into the clear night sky in upstate NY. Suddenly a bright light slightly bigger than let's say Venus, lit up. It got brighter changing colors ending in a very bright emerald and then shutting off. It never moved. Lasted about 5-7 seconds as I recall. Never saw anything like it before or since. What do you think it was? Star burning out?

 

Alan

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This is too cool!

 

This is what I love about geocaching. I have found so much neat stuff besides the trails since I started.

 

I got a flare at 2300 local time tonight. Will have to get out and try and see it.

 

This will a great way to get the kids into astronomy. Would make a great science fair type project.

 

Thanks for this info!

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have never been lost. Been awful confused for a few days, but never lost!

N61.12.041 W149.43.734

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quote:
Originally posted by Bilder:

 

I got a flare at 2300 local time tonight. Will have to get out and try and see it.

 

This will a great way to get the kids into astronomy. Would make a great science fair type project.

 

Thanks for this info!

 


 

I'd like to know what you think of it. I want to see one soon. I'm trying to keep my expectations low, though.

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quote:
Originally posted by Buzz_Lightfoot:

quote:
Originally posted by SamLowrey:

 

I keep hearing people talk about the clock on your GPS. IIRC (don't have it with me) the clock is just set manually, right? Or does it get the time from the satellites as well (the GPS system, not Iridium, I know) (mine's a Map 330, btw)


 

The clock in your GPS is set from the satellites. Extremely accurate timing is one facet of how GPS works. The clock in your GPS is the most accurate clock you'll ever own.

 

icon_wink.gif I bought an invisible fence for my invisible dog. icon_wink.gif

 

Buzz Lightfoot

Pike County, PA


 

Thank you.

 

I am home now and compared it to this http://www.time.gov/ and it was almost perfectly synchronized.

 

I figured timing was important like it is with a computer. But that doesn't mean the clock you see there is accurate - know what I mean? Glad to see they did this right.

 

[This message was edited by SamLowrey on August 22, 2003 at 06:14 PM.]

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan2:

When I was a kid, before Iridium sats, I looked up into the clear night sky in upstate NY. Suddenly a bright light slightly bigger than let's say Venus, lit up. It got brighter changing colors ending in a very bright emerald and then shutting off. It never moved. Lasted about 5-7 seconds as I recall. Never saw anything like it before or since. What do you think it was? Star burning out?

 

Alan


 

A star burning out takes centuries. Even a supernova flare happens over the course of weeks or months.

 

What you saw was probably the reflection off a satellite, just not an Iridium one.

 

There is LOTS of space junk up there and has been for decades, so the chances of seeing a reflection are somewhat slim, but not impossible.

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I saw it! I saw it! I saw it! I saw it!

 

Pretty cool. Looked like an aircraft landing light as it flared up and then went out.

 

Was a bit worried because of the clouds, but it shined right through the thin cloud layer.

 

Will be a fun thing to do this winter. All that darkness up here.....

 

My wife really thinks I am nuts now! All my excitment for a 2 second flash of light. hehe

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have never been lost. Been awful confused for a few days, but never lost!

N61.12.041 W149.43.734

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quote:
Originally posted by hoys:

quote:
Originally posted by Alan2:

When I was a kid, before Iridium sats, I looked up into the clear night sky in upstate NY. Suddenly a bright light slightly bigger than let's say Venus, lit up. It got brighter changing colors ending in a very bright emerald and then shutting off. It never moved. Lasted about 5-7 seconds as I recall. Never saw anything like it before or since. What do you think it was? Star burning out?

 

Alan


 

A star burning out takes centuries. Even a supernova flare happens over the course of weeks or months.

 

What you saw was probably the reflection off a satellite, just not an Iridium one.

 

There is LOTS of space junk up there and has been for decades, so the chances of seeing a reflection are somewhat slim, but not impossible.


 

I saw it in the late 50's when there wasn't much space junk. (Sputnik 1 was 1957). ALso the color, especially the merald green before it went out. How long does a super nova take to collapse. Can it be that short 5-7 seconds?

 

Alan

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