The Iridium Flare

Tuesday the 14thof August was a great night for stargazing over Leeds, as we’ll my usual International Space Station (ISS) watching I’d been informed by fellow Astro Tweeter: Active Astronomy we were in for a bright Iridium Flare that night, commonly known as Satellite flare (also known as satellite glint) it’s a weird phenomenon caused by the reflective surfaces on satellites (such as antennas or solar panels) reflecting sunlight directly onto the Earth below and appearing as a brief, bright “flare”.

The Iridium Flare over Leeds
The Iridium Flare over Leeds | 14th August 2012 at 11.18pm

This nights satellite flare was from The Iridium Communication Satellite which have a peculiar shape with three polished door-sized antennas, 120° apart and at 40° angles within the main bulk of the satellite. These forward antenna face the direction the satellite is traveling. Occasionally, an antenna reflects sunlight directly down at Earth, creating a predictable and extremely quick-moving illuminated spot on the surface below of about 10 km diameter. To a star-gazer like me, this looks like a bright flash, or flare in the sky, with a duration of a few seconds.

This flare over Leeds that night was -7 magnitude flare, but they can range up to -8 magnitude (rarely to a brilliant -9.5), some of the flares are so bright that they can be seen in the daytime; but they are most impressive at night. These flashings can cause some aggravation to astronomers, as they can be mistaken for meteors over the Perseid Meteor season in August.

International Space Station over Leeds August 2012 1st Pass
International Space Station over Leeds 14th August 2012 1st Pass 9.39pm

That night I also managed to capture both the ISS crossings over Leeds, one at 9.39pm which was a 6 minute fly-by, and the 11.15 3minute pass as well as the Iridium Flare which came at 11.18pm 18 degrees in the West, all of which ending a perfect night of stargazing for me.

International Space Station over Leeds August 2012 1st pass 2nd shot
International Space Station over Leeds 14th August 2012 1st Pass 2nd shot

I do love the lens flare in this shot from the garden lights, almost looks like one of the Red Moon’s of Tatooine.

International Space Station over Leeds August 2012 2nd Pass
International Space Station over Leeds 14th August 2012 2nd Pass 11.15pm
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