I live at 49.99N, 8.57E. Today we had exceptionally clear skies. I was looking out a window towards the South between 7:48pm and 7:52pm local time (central european) when I noticed a strange light pattern in the sky.
I am an amateur astronomer so I know how a plane looks like (also, we live right next to a large airport), how an artificial satellite looks when catching some sunlight or even a meteor.
None of these applied to what I saw. What I saw crossed from the Northwest towards the Southeast. It appeared above me at around 7:48pm and took around 3-4 minutes to make it towards a little above the horizon in the Southeast.
What I saw reflected the sunlight every around 1-2 seconds (it was varying), with each reflection being differently bright. There would be very dim reflections maybe as bright as an artificial satellite (but not constant like them), and the brightest ones would be as bright as the brighter stars in the sky. No flares or something. Some reflections were reddish but most were regularly white.
What kept me wondering was that some of the reflections did not appear where you would think they would appear judging by the speed of the object. Those few reflections appeared slightly behind where they should actually have been. The following reflection would then be regular again. Was it several objects? Was it maybe rotating?
At around 7:51pm the ISS appeared in the (far) east on a different trajectory.

What did I see? What could explain these reflections? Does it have to do with the ISS?

(for completeness' sake, I did check flightradar24.com, but there was no flight in that direction and time)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This website might be helpful for a search. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 20:10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ For the record, don't use coordinates this precise when posting on the internet. I now have your exact address. For this question, 50N, 8.6E would've been plenty precise. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Mast Why would you think those are my real coordinates? ;-) $\endgroup$
    – 8192K
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ The question literally starts with "I live at". So, that's why. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ What I meant to say in the first place : the original precise coordinates I gave were fake. I wouldn't tell anyone where I live. $\endgroup$
    – 8192K
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 18:43

2 Answers 2


I found it.
It was NOSS 3-1, a satellite pair.

Found it through heavens above.

The pair also explains the apparent tumbling. However, it seemed much brighter than 4.1, but it‘s definitely it.

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    $\begingroup$ Man oh man, it always amazes me when these objects are found. $\endgroup$
    – BMF
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 0:07

In-the-sky.org doesn't show anything that quite matches your specification. There was an H-2A rocket body (i.e. upper stage) overhead at 7:46 going from NE to ESE; there was an SL-16 (Zenit) rocket body a couple of minutes later going ESE to N. Tumbling rocket bodies can vary considerably in brightness.


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