University of Wisconsin-Madison

Week 16 at the Pole

NSF/I. Rees
NSF/I. Rees

Now there’s a flashy aurora! You know (and it’s not hard to imagine), they say a photo really can’t do justice to these aurora australis—to how impressive they really are when viewed in person. And yet, apparently someone’s eye traveled to other things in the sky even while a stunning aurora was unfolding above them. What were they looking at? Satellites. There are 1,000 or more operational satellites currently in orbit around the Earth. They do a lot of behind-the-scenes work for us, day in and day out. Chances are that you’ve done something today, like watch a TV program or check a weather forecast, that wouldn’t have been possible (not in the same way, at any rate) without a satellite signal. You have a good chance of seeing a satellite with the naked eye when the sky is clear and relatively dark near dawn and dusk. Having someone circle them in red on a photo helps, too.

NSF/I. Rees
NSF/I. Rees