What satellites are out tonight?
The first satellite was the Sputnik put into space by the Soviet Union in 1957. Satellite launches are now a common occurrence and have grown to thousands of satellites circling the Earth every moment of every day.
We have come to depend on them for communications, GPS navigation and observations of both the Earth and space with a variety of cameras and scientific instruments.
And like the interstate highways, with more traffic comes litter, only this time in the form of dead satellites and spent rocket boosters that were used to put the satellites up there… we have space junk!
Why you can see them
In the hours before sunrise and after sunset, you can see the light of the sun reflect off of a satellite when we are in the Earth’s shadow and the satellite is still in the sunlight, miles above us. The solar panels give a nice bright reflection.
Some of the more popular ones that you can see from right here in Round Rock are the International Space Station, the Hubble Telescope, the network of SpaceX Starlink satellites and a whole host of lesser known satellites and leftover rocket boosters.
Check out the link below and plan your own observation of an object in space.
When looking at the charts, figure out what magnitude brightness level you can see from your backyard. I usually don’t usually bother with the 3.5+ magnitudes inside the city limits.
Then look at the degrees above the horizon, the higher the better to get it out of the light pollution at the lower levels.
And last, get an idea of the beginning and ending compass headings or what constellations they will pass through.
Good luck hunting for the “moving stars” in the sky!