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The Iridium communication satellites have a peculiar shape with three polished door-sized antennas, 120° apart and at 40° angles with the main bus. The forward antenna faces the direction the satellite is travelling. Occasionally, an antenna reflects sunlight directly down at Earth, creating a predictable and quickly moving illuminated spot on the surface below of about 10 km (6.2 mi) diameter. To an observer this looks like a bright flash, or flare in the sky, with a duration of a few seconds.
originally posted by: jaws1975
a reply to: gortex
Interesting thing is I saw dozens of "iridium flares" in 2012, in 8 years of regular stargazing that was the only time I observed them. If I am observing the same area at the same times, then why don't I see them regularly?