reply to post by redmoon1
I don't post much on here any more, but noticed your post and felt compelled to reply to a post on here for the first time in perhaps 6 months.
You wanted someone who has experience with satellites to comment, and I have been observing satellites for the best part of 15 years now. My
specialization is actually meteor and fireball photography, and whilst trying to observe meteors/fireballs I often observe satellites which has led me
to understand as much as I can about them and to hunt for them specifically.
Basically I pretty much agree with everything Jadestar has to say on the subject, except for one minor point which I'll address in a moment.
One poster above said that:
The vast majority of satellites have a magnitude of +5 or greater meaning, they are on the very edge of visibility to many people, even under almost
perfect viewing conditions.
Whilst this is basically true, it's not the whole story by a long way. The fact is that there are over 1000 operational satellites orbiting Earth, but
if you also include non-operational satellites and junk, that number goes up to a few tens of thousands of individual objects.
The majority of these will be faint, but there are still plenty that reflect enough light to be visible in even quite light polluted skies. I used to
live in the suburbs of a major city, yet it was still clear enough on a significant portion of cloud-free nights to see objects as faint as +5 close
to the zenith (ie directly up where light pollution's effects tend not to be so pronounced).
Of course as soon as you get out of the city and into rural areas, you can start to see still fainter objects, and also many more because of this. The
difference in how much more you see can be astounding.
With that said, and hopefully kept in mind, consider this:
With a visual magnitude of +5 or even +6/+7 (yet fainter), whilst many objects will be below the threshold of visibility for the majority of the time,
this is not always the case
. Many of these objects are small splinters of junk that are spinning or rotating randomly - because of this and due
to the presence of various surfaces with different reflective properties, the brightness does not remain constant. Now although the object may well be
below the threshold of visibility for most of the time, as soon as it randomly rotates and hits the correct angle, in that instant it can become 100's
of times brighter than it was previously, and thus visible to the naked eye.
This is exactly the same principal as an "Iridium (satellite) flare" that has been mentioned previously, but because the rotation of Iridium
satellites is carefully controlled, and the change of angle relative to observer/Sun (the source of the light) is gradual, Iridium flares tend to last
a few seconds, compared to the relatively brief flashes caused by the wild rotation of junk.
So this is where I disagree with Jadestar. Yes, long drawn out flares are usually from operational satellites like those belonging to the Iridium
satellite constellation, but if you see a brief duration flash (or series of flashes), chances are that it's one of 10's of thousands of fragments of
junk that are whizzing around constantly above our heads.
I have even gone a step further by photographing some of these flashes and identifying the objects (junk) that caused them. Photographs and full
explanations of the techniques used to both photograph and identify the flashes can be found in the following two threads I posted if you are
Flashes and Star-like objects that move strangely in the sky explained
How to view, track, and identify satellites
I can understand why Jadestar has not been able to say much relating to junk-flashes since the type of camera she uses is not sensitive enough to be
able to track most junk. Using DSLRs with fast lenses allows me to get around this problem.
What irks me is that although my results are relatively easy to replicate with a suitable camera setup that could be bought for as little as $200-300
(if you hunt for second hand bargains), no one seems to even want to try. The info has been out there for more than one and a half years, and I'm sure
with the UFO community being relatively close knit, Gilliland or someone close to him would have stumbled on the info I provided by now, yet it seems
that he would just rather ignore it, continue to deceive people (weather consciously or not), and take their money.
When you first come here (ATS), it can seem that many here are trying to find the "truth", but after having been on here and participating since 2007
I have come to the conclusion that this is not the case once you "dig under the surface". Whilst there are exceptions, most here tend to ignore an
roads that might lead them to discover for themselves that which for them might be unsettling - ie that there may be mundane explanations for things
that at first may appear
to be inexplicable.
I am an optimist at heart, which is why I'm here now, and posting in the hope that things may have changed a little since I was last active here. So
the question is, who is willing to take a risk and challenge their own beliefs. Realistically I doubt there will be any takers, although it would be
nice if I was proved wrong.
PS. One other point to note is timing. Specifically that most satellites that are in Earth's orbit are only visible at certain times. This is due to a
number of factors: Firstly, for an object in orbit to be visible it must either be shone on by our Sun or be self-luminous. There are no self-luminous
satellites that I know of, although it is possible for any satellite to become self-luminous if it re-enters the atmosphere (relatively rare for most
to see, although not unheard of).
When it gets dark at night, it is because Earth has rotated and the Sun is below the horizon. When the Sun is just below the horizon is the best time
to observe satellites since although the sky is dark, at the altitudes at which satellites orbit, the Sun is still shining. However, as the Sun sinks
further below the horizon over the course of the night, Earth's shadow covers more and more of the sky above your head. Satellites flying through
Earth's shadow are not reflecting light, so are effectively invisible to the naked eye, which means that you'll see less as the night progresses up
till midway through the night when Earth's shadow begins to retreat in the run up to dawn.
So there is a big difference in how many satellites are visible on the deepest part of the night versus how many are visible close to sunset/sunrise,
but there is an even greater difference between observing at the summer solstice versus observing at the winter solstice. During summer time in the
Northern hemisphere at mid-latitudes the Sun never dips very far below the horizon, meaning satellites can be observed most of the night although
there will be less around midnight when the Sun is at it's lowest below the horizon. In winter however, due to Earth's tilt, at mid-latitudes in the
Northern hemisphere the Sun sinks deep below the horizon very quickly, meaning that there is only a very short window of an hour or two before you can
not observe satellites over the majority of the sky.
This is something that anyone can try for themselves - Go somewhere away from the city for a few nights in July/August and then again in
November/December. Make careful notes of the time of any events, and if possible what part of the sky/constellation over the course of a few hours.
Compare notes and the differences between winter/summer and late night/early night should be obvious. Note that you'll need something to lay on
(sun-bed that goes flat or camp bed), warm cloths, and a sleeping bag or two (especially in winter) to climb into if you want to be comfortable whilst
observing the sky for significant amounts of time.
If you do try this, keep in mind you may see the occasional meteor too, and that sometimes meteors can imitate satellites. Usually meteors are quite
fast and easy to tell apart, but if one moves towards you, perspective can play an illusion and the meteor may appear to move slowly, or not even at
all in extreme cases. Meteors, or rather small meteoroids entering the atmosphere, might also be the cause of some of the brief/extremely brief random
flashes that yourself and many others have observed. Earth is bombarded by far more small stuff than large stuff, and if you find a very dark
observing site, well away from any lights, and spend a few hours observing on a clear night close to a new moon, you'll probably be surprised how many
PPS. In answer to your question ""Do you believe that all UFO sightings are faked?""
Absolutely not. I think most UFO sightings are from people who have genuinely misidentified common phenomena. Few people are aware how easy it is to
see something considered to be a familiar phenomena and mistake it for something completely different. In general, most people/the general public take
little or no interest in the sky, and tend to underestimate the frequency of which some quite spectacular phenomena can be seen, which is a recipe for
It's almost impossible to educate everyone about everything that they *might* see in the sky over the course of a lifetime, so there will always be
UFO sightings that are genuine (but misidentifications) mixed in with a few hoaxes... just enough to keep the more gullible people clinging on to the
hope/idea that we are being regularly "visited by other beings". Don't fall into the same traps that so many have stumbled into before you by ignoring
the facts. Science may not have all the answers just yet, but despite the claims to the contrary, the vast majority of UFO sightings can be explained
if thoroughly investigated.
The beauty of science is that, as in this case, you can prove to yourself that what you saw was not anything that unusual if you follow my suggestions
above - you don't have to take my word for it if you choose.
edit on 19-1-2014 by FireballStorm because: ran out of room