T-2 Years? The Anticipated Fizzle-Out Of The Iridium Flares – Do Not Take Them For Granted!

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The following thoroughly depressing link was sent off – with a specific mention of the possibly extra-short future of the Iridium Flares many of us enjoy observing at night – by Kopernik member (and celebrity volunteer! – featured in a great article last month readable at pressconnects.com) George Normandin earlier this year. We’ve potentially lost 7 months already from the possible countdown with this approximate-ish late post to the CNYO site (my bad).

Iridium satellite #6 (upper) and its replacement, #51, flaring 6 seconds apart in a 21.4-second exposure. The bright object on the right is Jupiter. Arcturus is the bright star at about the 7 o’clock position. Spica is just out of view in the lower right. The satellites were moving left to right. Image by Jud McCranie.

For the record, the bbc.com article title was a little less dramatic than the also excellent nationalgeographic.com and spaceflightnow.com articles about the same.

From the article at bbc.com:

One thing the new [Iridium NEXT satellites] satellites will not be capable of doing, however, is producing Iridium “flares”. These are the flashes in the sky that result when sunlight glints off the antennas of the old spacecraft.

The new satellites do not have the same configuration, so once the original constellation is de-orbited the flashes will cease.

“I’m afraid those who’ve been tracking that phenomenon over the past 20 years have another year or two to see it,” Mr Desch told BBC News.

“As someone who’s seen a couple myself, you can imagine what a thrill it is to be the CEO of a company like this and watch your satellite go overhead. But we weren’t going to spend money just to make angular shiny things on our satellites, so that phenomenon will go away – but it’s been fun.”

For the full article: www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38613275

Iridium Flares are very easy to find once you know where – and when – to look. Predictions for your locale are easy to obtain from www.heavens-above.com/IridiumFlares.aspx.

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