Iridium Flare
Ten seconds of Glory

Main Astronomy Page         Image Gallery Main Page           Projects Page

Iridium communications satellites have flat antennas with a mirror-like surface. When the sun angle is just right, these satellites can reflect the sun directly at a ground observer, and for a few seconds, the satellite becomes the brightest object in the sky  (mag -8!). The effect is called an Iridum Flare.

Because the satellites are maintained in a precise orientation, the appearance of these "flares" is predictable. On the ground, the flare path is only a few miles wide.     Visit the Heavens-Above web site to see when an Iridium Flare will be coming to your back yard. On average, a very bright flare will be visible from any given location once or twice each week.

Iridium Flare from mid-town Tucson on March 30,  2010.    A two-minute exposure shows the background star trails. The flare lasted 10 seconds.
Imager: Canon Rebel DSLR with a 23mm lens.

Click the image above to watch video of the flare.

Imager: Webcam with a Canon
17mm lens (5 frames/sec).

Above: Full frame image. See a familiar pattern in the star trails?
Below: Sky chart overlay.