ISS and Iridium Flare

Event Date: 
Thursday, November 19, 2015

For those who do not mind getting up early there is an interesting opportunity to see two bright spacecraft within just a few minutes on Thursday morning. At present the weather forecast shows part clear.

Iridium Flare : See Chart

A network of 66 communications Satellites originally launched by Motorola, the Iridium communication satellites are highly reflective and when the orientation is correct reflect bright 'flares' of sunlight back to Earth. One such occasion is on Thursday 19th November. The satellite may be faintly visible as it rises in the South at 5:38, but as it passes over head at 5:42 it will brighten appreciably. The flare will occur for a few seconds between 5:43 and 5:44am very close to the Pole Star. At -7.9 magnitude from School this is a very bright event, far brighter than Venus. The maximum that can occur is -8.0. This brightness is location specific and Bedford is very close to the centre line for this event (Oakley, Bromham, West Bedford, Kempston, Toddington and Dunstable all get -8.0) It will still be easily visible from a few miles East and West of this line, but not quite as bright.

International Space Station Pass : See Chart

Within seconds of the flare ending, turn back towards the South-West to catch the ISS emerging from the Earth's shadow between Orion and Gemini. It will reach -3 magnitude between 5:45 and 5:46 before fading slightly as it passes very close to Jupiter, Mars and Venus at 5:47.

Both of these event will offer great photographic opportunities even if the schedule is rather hectic! Ideally you will need a tripod and a camera capable of an exposure of around 20 seconds and of course an alarm clock!

Keep watching the weather and if there is a chance of clear it will certainly be worth getting up for!

Iridium Flare Nov 19th
ISS Nov 19th