Iridium Flare through Leo


Copyright 2005 Hap Griffin

This photo is of sunlight reflecting from the shiny aluminum antenna panels of an Iridium communications satellite passing by overhead.  In this case, the satellite was Iridium 11 and was passing through the constellation of Leo.  The bright stars making the familiar pattern can be seen, with Regulus being just to the lower right of the area of maximum brightness.  Iridium flares as they are called since the satellite appears to "flare up" are a very common occurrence from any location - the predicted times and locations for any city can be found at  The dark area at the bottom is the out of focus image of the front of the LX-200 telescope on which the camera was mounted.  The striped pattern within the flare is a result of the interaction of the rows of pixels in the camera imager and the JPEG data compression used.   

Date/Location:    April 9, 2005     Griffin/Hunter Observatory    Bethune, SC
Instrument:    Canon 10D Digital SLR through Sigma 28-80mm zoom lens at approximately 35 mm
Focal Ratio:   f4.5
Guiding:    None - camera piggyback on LX-200 telescope
Conditions:    Visually clear
Weather:    55 deg. F 
Exposure: Approximately 30 seconds - captured in 6 megapixel FINE jpeg mode
Filters:    None
Processing:    Levels adjusted with Photoshop 6.  Noise reduction with NeatImage.