Iridium 86 – nice to meet you

satelliteI sought out my first Iridium flare tonight.  It was a successful mission and I even got to share it with my parents.

What’s this all about?  A few weeks ago I didn’t know, so don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of a Iridium flare before.

The Iridium satellites are for data and telecommunications — and they are not made of iridium, interestingly enough.  They orbit the earth and something cool happens every so often:  the sun’s rays hit them and the reflected light is visible to the naked eye.  These moments referred to as Iridium flares, which is really just a class of the more general satellite flare.

So, even on this slightly cloudy evening, just before 8:30pm I was out in my driveway, telling my parents where I *thought* we should be watching, and saying it should visible any time now.  Then for a few brief moments we saw what looked to us like a bright, moving star.  It was just long enough that we all could point and see it together, and then it was gone from our view.  We met Iridium 86 tonight.  There are many more to meet in the future and paths will cross with 86 again sometime.

I’m looking forward to looking again on a clearer night and/or with a closer satellite.  I’ve read about how much more intense and dramatic they can be.  What we saw was pretty cool and definitely intriguing.  Some are so bright that you can see them in the daytime!  Wild.

Are you curious now and want to go find one for yourself?  You can check out the latest schedule online, like at  There are multiple phone apps that can help with the schedule as well as hints on where to look in the sky.  I had few astronomy apps installed which had more features, like tracking Iridium flares and that is what introduced them to me in the first place.  Have fun!