Questions tagged [visibility-of-spacecraft]

questions about how visible spacecraft are, as seen from Earth or anywhere else, as seen by eye or by imaging systems.

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Why is the sunny side of JWST's sunshield purple and covered with silicon?

After about 08:52 in Destin's Smarter Every Day's Why Are there Holes in the James Webb Sunshield? (Explained by My Dad) - Smarter Every Day 270 (linked below) ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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Can we watch the object move towards the Moon and hit it this week at home? Will there be live telescope feeds?

I'm not even going to name the object because there's been some variability and excitement in its identification (DSCOVR 2nd stage, no not DSCOVR, it's Chinese, no not that Chinse rocket body, this ...
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Why not add tracking features to upper stages? Has something like this ever been proposed?

The identity of the object that will hit the Moon in early March is still uncertain. Some of the story is in Why did we think that the object was gonna hit the Moon March 4th 2022? Who's been ...
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Project Pluto asks: "Should high-flying space junk be better tracked? Perhaps by an 'official' agency of some sort?" What would it take to implement?

The identity of the object that will hit the Moon in early March is still uncertain. Some of the story is in Why did we think that the object was gonna hit the Moon March 4th 2022? Who's been ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Has anyone in space beyond LEO seen or has anything photographed a non-pointer laser from Earth?

The two current answers to Has anyone in space seen or photographed a simple laser pointer from Earth? both describe small, low power lasers from Earth aimed towards the ISS in LEO. Here I'd like to ...
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6 votes
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How "specularly" and therefore spectacularly will JWST reflect sunlight? Will we be watching for JWST flares?

JWST has a giant sunshield made from mostly parallel layers of metalized polymer film that are sufficiently tensioned so as not to touch each other, though I'm not sure how taut or flat they are: ...
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4 votes
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Is there a website with launch paths/visible regions?

Last night's Space-X launch led to excitement from observers in locations that don't typically see the upper atmosphere effects, prompting a lot of questions about it and when other such launches can ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What would the James Webb telescope see if it looked at itself from Earth?

This question asks whether any ground-based telescopes can see the James Webb. The answer ("yes, but it's basically just an indistinct dot") is deeply underwhelming. If only we had a much ...
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Where will the March 4, 2022 impactor hit the Moon? Will it be visible from Earth?

Wikipedia's LCROSS says: Centaur impacted successfully on October 9, 2009, at 11:31 UTC. The Shepherding Spacecraft descended through Centaur's ejectate plume, collected and relayed data, impacting ...
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9 votes
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What would JWST's apparent magnitude be?

I understand that for any viewer, JWST would roughly occupy the anti solar spot in the sky. Size of and distance to the spacecraft is known, and its reflectivity (of the sunshield) is probably known. ...
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Calculating accurately area on the surface of Earth visible from a point in space

What is the name of the area on Earth which can be observed from a satellite? discusses the concept of which area on Earth is visible from a satellite. From the accepted answer, it seems to be assumed ...
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Calculating Which Satellite Passes are Visible - Need help

I am a beginner Python programmer. I am trying to get the code in the article "Calculating which satellites are visible" to function without success. My plan is to identify satellites that ...
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Do reentering capsules always make a(n Earth-shattering ka-)boom and look like a fireball if at night? Time & epicenter predictable w/ public info?

SpaceX enjoys press. So the unexpected events popping up in the news is good for them. March 26, 2021: Fire ball burning over Woodland WA- SpaceX second stage re-entry and burn up. A ‘spectacular’ ...
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How to calculate the phase angle between satellite and sun with the use of skyfield

With the discussion that took place on answer(s) to How to calculate cone angle between two satellites given their look angles? I would like to ask if my proposal solving that question works like ...
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Will the International Space Station be able to see the Falcon 9 (Inspiration4 launch)

Will astronauts aboard the International Space Station be able to see any part of the Inspiration4 flight of the Falcon 9 during launch and/or during orbit?
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Roughly how high does a rocket have to get before the self-destruct becomes inaudible? Invisible?

Watching the NASA Spaceflight video Astra Test Flight (Launch Vehicle 0006) linked below it seems the launch was terminated, but at least on the video there was no audible Earth-shattering kaboom. ...
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Why does Unity look transparent?

The BBC's Virgin Galactic: Sir Richard Branson rockets to the edge of space includes the image below. Much of the Unity spacecraft appears (almost) transparent in this image; you can see the blue sky ...
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6 votes
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Measuring and analyzing the tumble of space debris

How well or accurately can we measure the tumble of space debris? I know that we can make ground-based measurements based on light curve data acquired by telescopes. Can tumble be measured from radar ...
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2 answers
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How did the kerosene-burning Black Arrow have transparent exhaust? (seems to just "hover" in photos)

Kerosene + LOX rockets have big, bright exhaust plumes, at least in the atmosphere; second stages are are a different matter: Why is the flame of the Falcon 9's 2nd stage (nearly) invisible? But ...
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Does NEPA currently categorically exempt satellite systems? Is there any legal basis to Viasat's request for the FCC to consider light pollution?

Space News' Viasat asks FCC to halt Starlink launches while it seeks court ruling says: Viasat formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to stay an April 27 license modification that ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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Were photographs or optical measurements of orbital craft from the ground ever used during early crewed spaceflight missions?

The lengthy and interesting blogpost Baker-Nunn Camera, Island Lagoon on Colin Mackellar's Honeysuckle Creek website includes a photo of "Gemini 10 (with John Young and Mike Collins onboard) and ...
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9 votes
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Has there ever been a deliberate "Find A Satellite" challenge? Actually, could there be?

Companies often offer rewards for finding security issues in their products or their own IT systems, and hackathons have a long history. I'm just wondering if there has ever been a deliberate ...
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KiNET-X Launch, where will the 'vapour cloud' be?

Inspired by How to calculate degrees above/below horizon? (For KiNET-X rocket getting to an altitude of over 200 miles.) and this NASA article/blog post, specifically this paragraph: The vapor will ...
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1 answer
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Are Starlink satellites flaring?

The "Old and Busted" Iridium satellites flared like crazy because they had big flat metal surfaces for their phased array antennas (that were certainly so shiny completely by accident and ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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How to calculate degrees above/below horizon? (For KiNET-X rocket getting to an altitude of over 200 miles.)

I live near Detroit, Michigan, USA. Let's say I'm viewing from 42.34768° N, 83.47610° W, altitude 718 feet (219 meters) above MSL (mean sea level.) (No, these are not my exact coordinates.) I've ...
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2 votes
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When are close approaches of Helios 1 and 2 to the Earth? Any historical tracking data? Any reports in sky surveys?

This answer to ** notes that it's hard to get current data on the orbits of Helios-1 and Helios-2 and I couldn't find any in JPL's Horizons. They are shiny and in nice elliptical orbits between ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Efficient method to compute rise and set times of satellites (visibility problem)?

Today I found the paper "Rise and Set Time of a Satellite about an Oblate Planet" (Pedro Ramón Escobal, 1963), which presents "a closed-form solution to the satellite visibility problem&...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Have lasers ever been used to track laser-reflective parachute cloth for spaceflight missions? And what is it by the way?

In the JAXA PDF Hayabusa2 Information Fact Sheet (Ver. 2. 3, 2018. 07. 05, found here) on slide/page number 53 there is a diagram labeled Re-entry sequence overview and in the top right corner is ...
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4 votes
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Besides the video game and Nine Inch Nails box set, what is HALO-IV? How does it relate to the testing of ICBM interceptors?

Near the end of the Raytheon Technologies YouTube video Missile Defense Agency completes unprecedented homeland defense test can be seen what looks to me like thermal infrared footage of a ship-...
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1 vote
4 answers
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Are crewed spacecraft missions that appear stationary from the ground possible?

I've looked at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacecraft and the following question arose. For crewed spacecraft missions, can a spacecraft remain stationary in the sky i.e. not moving once launched ...
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15 votes
1 answer
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Who proposed detonating gunpowder on the moon to prove a rocket reached it?

I remember reading a about some rocket pioneer who had proposed that if a rocket were launched to the moon, one way to prove that it had reached the moon would be to detonate a large quantity of ...
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When and what was the first successful photograph of an orbital spacecraft from Earth taken?

Early artificial satellites were tracked by radio and visually by amateurs, scientists and military personnel for various reasons including fun and improving the understanding of orbital dynamics ...
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Would the Saturday May 30th 2020 SpaceX launch visible from Boca Raton? [duplicate]

Will I be able to see the SpaceX Crew Demo-2 launch this Saturday May 30th if I’m at the beach in Boca Raton, Florida and the launch takes place?
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5 votes
1 answer
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Will WFIRST and JWST be able to resolve each other?

The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch in 2021 and be put in a halo orbit around Sun-Earth L2 soon after. The plan for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope is a launch perhaps ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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Have astronauts seen Starlink trains?

Starlink satellites move in the same altitude region as the ISS (on their way up and eventually back down) and are particularly noticeable for weeks after deployment as "trains". Have one of these ...
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1 vote
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How did SpaceX's VisorSat work? How did the sunshade articulate to shade parts of Starlink satellite as it orbits the Earth?

CNET's Elon Musk wants SpaceX to launch the next generation of space telescopes says: The billionaire entrepreneur said that "VisorSat" satellites equipped with a sunshade to block ...
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Will the James Webb Space Telescope be able to see the Spitzer Space Telescope (assuming...)?

Space.com's NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is no more. Here's what's next for infrared astronomy. says: The best infrared eye in the universe† has closed, and scientists will need to wait at least a ...
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6 votes
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What attitudes will Starlink satellites have in different orbits?

update 3: Guest Post: Modelling of Starlink trail brightness and comparison to observations update 2: Teslarati's SpaceX’s Starlink “VisorSat” launch plans revealed by Elon Musk explains Open Book ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Have any satellites had lights visible from Earth besides FITSat-1?

Clearly not a duplicate! of Why does the International Space Station have a downward facing light? This answer to How does the Starlink satellite shine? begins with Starlink (and other satellites) ...
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13 votes
1 answer
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Is it feasible to paint SpaceX Starlink satellites black so as not to frequently saturate the CCDs of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope?

update: From Nature.com News article: SpaceX launch highlights threat to astronomy from ‘megaconstellations’: But an upcoming, cutting-edge telescope could be in bigger trouble. The US Large Synoptic ...
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7 votes
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Did CNSA astronaut Zhai Zhigang see the ISS during an EVA?

This answer to Has an astronaut ever seen another object in LEO pass by that wasn't mission-related? says: The encounter happened at longer distances ($\sim47\;km$) and the Shenzhou-7 is smaller than ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What is the cause of the Terra Satellite color as seen from Earth?

Yesterday I spotted the Terra Satellite (EOS AM-1) with my binoculars. This is the 22nd satellite I've spotted. It all looked like usual but there was something very different: the satellite was ...
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Is the Starlink array really visible from Earth?

I was browsing YouTube when I came across this video, recorded from a sky gazer who apparently spotted the Starlink satellites. In my lifetime, I haven't seen many satellites in the night skies (maybe ...
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What is producing these strange lights around the Falcon 9 grid fins (Starlink launch)?

Early in the video of the launch of the first sixty SpaceX Starlink satellites we can see that after stage separation the first stage grid fins open. Around that time there are some phenomena I don't ...
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3 votes
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Has anyone reported looking for bandgap photoemission from III-V solar panels on spacecraft? Has any success ever been reported?

I have asked a related question in Physics SE: Do III-V based photovoltaics “glow” (photo-luminesce) when illuminated but not loaded? and the answer (as expected, as it must be) is yes. Question: Have ...
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14 votes
3 answers
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Will it be possible to see BFR approaching the moon from earth, with naked eye?

The title pretty much sums it up. I'm not old enough to have experienced any of the previous manned moon landings. Given that Big Falcon Rocket will go around the moon in 2023, I'm wondering if one ...
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Was Roadster (Starman) seen in Earth orbit, before the long burn to deep space?

Discussion in comments below this answer tend to conclude that 1st stages come back to Earth and so (essentially) all those tumbling rocket body objects in Heavens Above are 2nd stages, though I ...
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1 vote
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Attitude of the upcoming "Orbital Reflector"; will it result in good visibility?

There's a new (passive solar) orbital reflector, called the Orbital Reflector. While Mayak (Маяк) was a crowdfunded project at Moscow State Mechanical Engineering University and the Humanity Star ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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Has the Humanity Star been spotted yet?

With all the hullabaloo that the Roadster/Spaceman duo has been getting, is there any indication that the Humanity Star has been seen visually yet? Any reports of it's sparkly mirrorball-like ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Why were early satellites produced with polished "mirror-like" surfaces?

Many/most early artificial satellites were spheres with mirror-like polished outer surfaces. I am guessing that for lower orbits the spherical shape minimized drag as well as simplified the analysis ...
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