Iridium Sightings in 2002

4 June 2002

As summer approaches the reduced distance of the Sun below the northern horizon means that the altitude (some 800km) at which Iridium satellites fly is in sunlight almost throughout the night from the latitude of the UK. Following the frantic activity of the Dance of the Planets I can now turn my attention back to other things, Iridium included.

In fact it was on the very last evening of the Dance, when Venus and Jupiter came together for a conjunction over the Queen's Golden Jubilee holiday, that I saw, and caught on camera, a daylight Iridium flare. Whilst daylight is perhaps an exaggeration, the predicted -8 event occured just 20 minutes after sunset, in a sky sufficiently bright that only a short exposure was possible.

Iridium flare over Hay - on - Wye, 4 Jun 2002

Iridium flare over Hay - on - Wye, Powys, Wales. Predicted magnitude -8 (the brightest possible), at an elevation of 60 degrees.

This view looks due north and the satelllite (Iridium 26) travelled north to south, i.e. upwards in this picture. It can be seen as a bright spot to the right of the upper branches of the tree. The brightness was somewhat spoiled by having to shine through the only cloud in the entire sky but my mother and a friend (from whose garden this picture was taken) who saw it also, neither of whom had seen an Iridium before, were astonished at the brightness, unmistakable even in a light sky.

It was visible to the naked eye for some 5 seconds. The exposure is too short to show any movement, but I have more success on a later picture in 2003 where I used a small aperture to make the exposure long enough to show movement.

4 Jun 2002, 21:42:35BST (20:42:35UT). Minolta Dimage 7, 7.4mm, 1/15s @ f/3.5, ISO100

This same evening proved productive, for in addtion to the planetary conjunction the International Space Station put in an appearance later.


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