Can you see space satellites with a telescope?

21 December 2008

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Question

Can you see space satellites with a telescope?

Answer

Dave - You certainly can see satellites with a telescope.

Definitely for live satellites you can get quite good pictures of them. You can also see the International Space Station (ISS) and all the different bits of it with a large telescope.

With your naked eye you can see what look like stars which move across the sky very quickly and don't have a red flashing light - those are normally planes! Anything moving across the sky very quickly is normally a satellite.

Chris - I saw the guys on the BBC website where they've got this tracking software which they've written themselves and some amateur telescope gear. They have got some amazing pictures of the International Space Station. It really looks like a computer game, how good the pictures are.

Dave - And also you can sometimes see satellites which aren't supposed to be there. One of my housemates has got a friend who was taking photos of the sun - he's an astronomer. Occasionally you see satellites going past the sun and you can see them in some frames of this video. There are lists of all the satellites which are supposed to be there and it was one which wasn't supposed to be there. There's definitely more satellites up there than anyone will admit to!

Chris - Also they fool people because some of them come down into lower orbits and then go back up again. You get these interesting iridium flares where the Iridium network of satellites which are telecommunication satellites come down low in order to communicate and then they go back up higher. They park them into higher orbits when they're less in demand. It means they're using less fuel in the long run because they're not having to keep accelerating their orbit.

Comments

Hi. Just got my scope 3 days ago. Watching the moon and all the amazing things on it through a elchepo Zeny model number 40070. I am amazed at all the detail a $39 from online at walmart can show you. I even seen Jupiter and the very very small moons that went around the planet. With all of this and knowing how good this scope is, I put a moon filter on my lens that it came with... Just brought the light down a bit really but pulled the filter back off and wow... I seen a very very fast shadow going around the moon. I had to do some research on if that was a bug or acually something cool that I seen. Well, guess what... It was a live satilight that I seen going around and around the moon. I love the stars now and I am getting a bigger scope so that I can see more of the night sky. So much things are opened up now and I can not wait to learn and see more.

so where are all the pics from the iss of the thousands of satellites as they go whizzing by?

Ok troll, let’s here it. Please explain how it works.

There are great home movies and nasa videos of them. In fact sometimes they have to prepare to evacuate the space station if a piece of debris even gets too close. They’ll even move the ISS to avoid things. That’s why it has to be refueled.

But there is a great documentary about fixing Hubble where they shoot home movies of the Hubble as just a bright dot in the sky and it gets closer every orbit until they catch it with the arm.

And by the way, I can see satellites passing overhead all the time at my parents place in the western Rockies. It’s very very dark there at night. You can just lay out and watch them. They’re faster then airplanes by a LOT but slower than shooting stars by a LOT and they’re right there where every orbital calculation says they should be right on time.

There are even pictures of the ISS and the shuttle docked taken through an amateur telescope.

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