4WD Touring Australia – June 2018

(Ben Green) #1
Photo: (CC)Stiles



Satellite spotting has always been seen as a poor
cousin, given that they have a much less interest-
ing backstory than a meteorite.
However, there are 3000 of them, they’re easy to
trace, even from the suburbs, and they can some-
times throw out the best show in the solar system.
The big ticket item, for all of us who camp out, is
the big old International Space Station, as it metro-
nomically beats its endless circumnavigation of our
planet. It’s actually wider than a football eld and is
often the brightest thing buzzing around up there.
The most dazzling satellites that will tickle your
retinas with colour are the 100 or so irridium
satellites spinning around for the telcos. Because
they have six sides, they can reect the sunlight
from the other side of the earth in bright, twisting
ashes, known as Irridum Flares.
There are 35,000 synthetic objects orbiting the

earth, and the majority of these satellites are classied
as space junk, no longer in use. They just keep
spinning in the Earth’s orbit for no good reason
apart from to give us something to look at each
You’d think with there being that many of them
that your whole eld of vision would be clogged
up, but most of them are too small, and you actually
have to really go looking for those bigger ones most
of the time.
And most of the time, that time is an hour either
side of sunrise or sundown, as this is when they can
reect the nearby sunlight from around the curve of
the planet, and cut a streak through the sky.
Before long you’ll be seeking out the path of
specic synthetic shooting stars, the Chinese Space
Station, the Hubble Telescope, the Russian Mir, and
Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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