What is an Iridium Satellite Flare?

Iridium satellites are small communications satellites that orbit Earth. The antennas on the satellites are made of very reflective aluminium and silver-coated Teflon plates. When these plates turn toward the Sun and catch the light, there is a brilliant flash that can last for quite a few seconds. Before and after the flash, the satellite will appear very dull and may not even be visible at all.

Here’s an image of an iridium flare on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. Plus this 12 second NASA video will give you more of an idea of what you’re looking for. In real life, they look far more impressive!

First Generation of Iridium Satellites Coming to an End…

Make sure you take the chance to try and spot an Iridium Satellite Flare in the near future. The current satellites are slowly being taken out of commission. Heavens Above has more information on the end of the Iridium Satellite era…

A special “Flarewell” webpage has been set up by¬†Iridium Communications Inc, the company that operates the network of Iridium Satellites. Unfortunately, the new generation of Iridium Satellites are not expected to flare like the first generation do.

Want to Start an Astronomy Hobby?

Stargazers Club WA is especially for beginners. Astronomy is a wonderful hobby to get into and once you know and understand a few things about telescopes and how the night sky works you’ll be on your way to the Universe!

We hold an event every month including telescope classes, astrophotography for beginners and visits to special places. Non-members are always welcome.