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Can You See Satellites At Night? How Do You Spot Them?

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starlink stellites in the night sky

There are thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth, each of which has a different function. Many people interested in astronomy and space wonder if they can see satellites at night and, if so, how to spot them.

Satellites are visible during the night, but to see them, you need to know how they look and all the tips and tricks on how to spot them.

That’s where we come into the picture. Keep reading the rest of our article, as we will show you the best way to see satellites at night, along with some excellent satellite spotting tools and the most visible satellites from the Earth.

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How to Spot Satellites?

When trying to spot satellites, it’s best to observe the sky near dusk or dawn or any moment when the sky is dark and moonlight is low, increasing your chances of seeing a satellite. It’s best to be away from city lights, so the countryside or a field with no light obstacles will allow you to spot satellites much easier. 

starlink stellites in the night sky

Image Credit: Vytautas Kielaitis, Shutterstock

Sit Back, Be Patient and Enjoy the View

On a clear evening, preferably after sunset, you should be able to spot satellites by simply sitting in a chair and staring at the sky. You’ll have to be patient as you might not see satellites instantly, but if you observe everything moving across the sky, you’ll surely spot a couple of them.

Unlike airplanes that have flashing lights, satellites often appear and disappear as the Sun shines on them. Depending on their size and the reflective surface that the Sun covers, they can be pretty bright or dim. Also, they flow in a much smoother line than airplanes, and they will disappear after a few minutes once away from the Sun.

Find Specific Satellites

You could also look for specific satellites, although that will take more preparation and research. There are various online tools you can use to spot your favorite satellite. Once you use the tool to locate the satellite, all you need to do is get to a peaceful destination at the given time and enjoy the view.

How Do Satellites Look When You Observe Them From the Earth?

When you observe the night sky, satellites often look similar to stars passing by. Although they are not as bright, they will appear as tiny dots of light traveling through the sky, and you might notice multiple while they orbit the Earth. Satellites don’t blink as they don’t shine unless the Sun hits their surface and makes them visible.

Still, their size makes it hard to spot a satellite without a telescope, although the mission is not impossible. If you know when and what to look for, you could see at least a couple of them with your bare eyes.

Only certain satellites are close enough and large enough for us to spot them by the naked eye. However, as they are visible for several minutes while the Sun reflects on their surface, you can follow them until a certain point when they disappear.

Which Satellites Are the Most Visible From the Earth?

You cannot spot all satellites from the Earth. However, there are a some that have the best visibility, and you shouldn’t have any issues spotting them in the sky. If you’d like to know more about those satellites, read about them below.

The International Space Station

This is one of the most spectacular satellites you can see with your bare eyes. It was launched in 1998, so it’s been in space for 23 years. It’s around 220 miles away from the Earth, and it orbits it approximately every 90 minutes, allowing you multiple chances to catch a glimpse of it.

During summer, the nights are shorter, and the Sun can illuminate the ISS throughout the night. Due to its large solar panels, this is the largest object you can see from the Earth. It quickly appears and disappears, but because of that, you can see it multiple times in the sky.

Iridium Satellites

Iridium satellites also stand out from the crowd—because of their polished surface, these satellites can briefly flare, which is why many people refer to them as Iridium flares.

Starlink

These satellites have recently been launched into space as one of Elon Musk’s projects for broadband Internet. As there are more and more of these satellites in orbit, you’ll likely see one of them in the night sky. They resemble lit pearls moving in a straight line, making a beautiful sight for anyone observing them.

Tools for Spotting Satellites

When spotting satellites, different online tools can help you locate them and make your satellite search easier. 

All of these websites provide similar details for certain satellites and allow you to set parameters such as your location, date, and time to help you determine when is the best time to spot a satellite in the sky. You can try out multiple of them until you find one that suits your needs.

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Final Thoughts

Although spotting satellites at night might sound challenging, it’s not too tricky, especially if you use one of the helpful tools to locate them in the sky. On the other hand, if you don’t want to use any tools, you can just sit back in the countryside, relax and enjoy the view.


Featured Image Credit: Vytautas Kielaitis, Shutterstock

About the Author Visnja Radosavljevic

Visnja is a creative, adaptable content writer that covers various topics such as DIY, pets, home improvement, travel, gardening, and more. As a young mom and a college student, she didn’t have enough time to balance her personal and work life, so after multiple years of working a regular 9 to 5 job, she decided to pursue her passion and make a living out of it. She has been writing for a couple of years now, helping people to find valuable and interesting information online.

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