MUFON Report 124374: Commercial airline pilot videos "2 objects circling" [Starlink Flares / Racetrack Illusion]

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I was a long time Iridium spotter, and am still a regular Starlink and ISS spotter. I have considered trying to pre-empt this 'new-AP' but havent been able to find a clear night recently. I also suffer from light polution to the North and West. But I would be interested in trying to predict and spot them. The in-the-sky.org site is probably the best tool we have for this.
There's been a lot of reports, so it seems likely that they will continue.

However, without doing all the geometry, it's hard to know if this will be a year round thing, or maybe more common at some times. Or if the altitude is really needed. There have been reports from the ground that look like the same thing. But is it mostly airline pilots because of their elevation, or simply because of their clear view and night-vision (dark cockpit).
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
But is it mostly airline pilots because of their elevation, or simply because of their clear view and night-vision (dark cockpit).
I'd suggest a mild case of "flap" as well, with one pilot reporting it and that being publicized leading to more noticing it if they happen to be in the right place and time to see it, and reporting it if they do. Having a catchy name for it also likely helps.
 

Are Starlink satellites flaring?

"Starlink satellites are giant flat, square metal pancakes with tall, flat-segmented solar panels, and they now have one preferred attitude during their rise from deployment altitude (low, so easy to quickly deorbit the duds) to operational altitude and phasing within a given inclination ring, and a second preferred attitude once operational.

Question: Are Starlink satellites flaring? In the same way that the occasional geometry occurred when a near specular reflection of the Sun on to Earth's surface occurs for other satellites, does this happen for Starlinks? Or do the now fairly well established preferred attitudes discussed above pretty much preclude any flaring?"
One answer is posted: "Yes it appears that Starlinks are/can flare." However, " I could not find any pictures/video of a Starlink flare occurring while in the operational orbit." Apparently we have this now.

https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/52149/are-starlink-satellites-flaring
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
Metabunk link policy (see the "Info" section on the navbar) requires us to quote the pertinent bits from the sources we link to; like so:

Starlink satellites are giant flat, square metal pancakes with tall, flat-segmented solar panels, and they now have one preferred attitude during their rise from deployment altitude (low, so easy to quickly deorbit the duds) to operational altitude and phasing within a given inclination ring, and a second preferred attitude once operational.

Question: Are Starlink satellites flaring? In the same way that the occasional geometry occurred when a near specular reflection of the Sun on to Earth's surface occurs for other satellites, does this happen for Starlinks? Or do the now fairly well established preferred attitudes discussed above pretty much preclude any flaring?

[Answer]
SpaceX's Starlink update blog post ASTRONOMY DISCUSSION WITH NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (posted over a year ago) has a very nice write-up on Starlink brightness:

When sunlight hits a specular surface of the spacecraft and reflects, the vast majority of light reflects in the specular (mirror reflection) direction, which is generally out toward space (not toward Earth). Occasionally when it does, the glint only lasts for a second or less. In fact, specular surfaces tend to be the dimmest part of the satellite unless you are at just the right geometry.

The blog makes no mention of this phenomenon being exclusive to the post-launch/phasing time periods. I could not find any pictures/video of a Starlink flare occurring while in the operational orbit.
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(P.S. You can find the formatting tag on the button bar by extending the second group of buttons, and then choosing the "square and arrow" button.)
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The SpaceX update "APRIL 28, 2020 ASTRONOMY DISCUSSION WITH NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES" seems to have moved to https://www.spacex.com/updates/ where it lacks the images that originally went with it. Thankfully, it has been republished by various space websites.
Article:
There will be a small percentage of instances when the satellites cannot roll all the way to true knife edge to the Sun due to one of the aforementioned constraints. This could result in the occasional set of Starlink satellites in the orbit raise of flight that are temporarily visible for one part of an orbit.

This simple diagram highlights why satellites in orbit raise are so much brighter than the satellites that are on-station.
spacex_starlink_visibility_945.jpg
orientationroll.pngorientationroll2.png
 
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