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An Iridium Flare is a reflection of the sun as it strikes the antenna of an Iridium system's satellite. When you are in the right location the flash can have an intensity of (-8)-- the number is from the web page and I'm not sure if has the same value as used in Astronomy. I have seen a few flares and they can be impressive--kids think they're cool.

Check out the following web page for more information and other very relevant Astronomical information.
http://www.heavens-above.com/

The following is a good place to get the Lat/Long coordinate information for your location. 'Click" on your location (on the map) after you have accessed the map and the Lat/Long coordinates will be shown on the bottom of the map(noted "Center"). The negative sign is correct for the USA. (The link "Map showing geographical distribution of visitors" at the bottom of the Haven's Above web page shows the incorrect entry of USA visitors showing up as visitors in Asia!)
http://MapsOnUs.switchboard.com/bin/maps-map/refsrc=SB.home/usr=~new

Some Tips:
(1) The information on your location can be saved (Bookmarked/Favorite) for your location for subsequent access.
(2) There is an option (for Iridium Flare) to click on the Time and a sketch is shown. The sketch is "Only a Cartoon". Use the values of the Table to determine where to look.
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Another suggestion.

When you go to the Link I provided, just log on as "Anonymous User" and select "ENTER your coordinates manually". After you "submit" you will get the Heaven's Above Home page with your location's data as part of the URL which you can then (Bookmark/Favorite). This will bypass any log-in requirements in the future(just hit the bookmark).
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Iridium flares are awesome! IT is well worth the minimal amount of effort to see one, and light pollution is no problem.

- Joe
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I don't think anything that we can see from down here on earth that is out in space that has a -8 magnitude is OT on this board...

Sadly, with Light Pollution getting worse each year in most cities, some people can only see something as bright as an -8 mag Iridium Flare in their sickly greyish nighttime skies.


docrobot

P.S. Any RASC Members on this board?
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I first saw an Iridium flare about 3-4 years ago; before even all the satelites were up. I was at a bar, and one of the regulars told me about it. What was really cool was that this had become somewhat of a ritual at the bar; 5 minutes before the designated time, many of the regulars would go out onto the patio to watch, sometimes 10-20 people. Of course, there would always be questions as to the other stuff up there (mostly planets). Anything that can get that many people to go outside to look up is pretty neat.

(of course, the pros hate them; one flare can destroy sensitive CCD equipment, which is the original reason for tracking the flares).

David
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I just found a photo of an Iridium Flare (and a good explanation of a flare) while going through the "Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive" linked below. The archive shows a photo for each day since June 16, 1995.

April 02 1998: Iridium Flare
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap980402.html

Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/archivepix.html
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I thought the iridium constellation had been de-orbited.
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I thought the iridium constellation had been de-orbited.

It was going to be. Evidently it's old-fashioned, the phones cost about $2000 each, and Motorola was losing tons of money on it. But I think the events of Sept 11 got people to thinking that Iridium is not such a bad idea after all.

Boeing just launched 5 new satellites on a Delta-II, on Feb 11.

One of the suggestions being thrown out is that Iridium would make a good replacement for the "black box" recorders on airlines - just get everything in real time.

One of the plusses for Iridium is that it covers 100% of the earth. There was a scientific expedition through Greenland within the last few years, in which they used it for communications.

Since the original company went bankrupt, the new company doesn't have to charge high prices to recover the R&D costs, so future Iridium systems may be competitive.
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