Two Iridium flares right next to each other

From: Kevin Mangis (
Date: Thu Jan 10 2002 - 17:14:10 EST

  • Next message: Rod Sladen: "Re: Two Iridium flares right next to each other"

    Last night (9 Jan 02) while watching Iridium 42 flare to -2 as
    predicted by Heavens-above (19:02:29 local time or 00:02:29 UTC), I saw
    a much brighter flare right next to it in the sky which appeared to be
    from a nearby Iridium satellite that was not predicted by
    Heavens-above.  The second flare was at least -6 magnitude, was above
    and slightly to the left of the first flare, and followed the same
    track (heading south toward the horizon).  Although it peaked about 5
    seconds later than the first flare, they were both visible at the same
    time.  It was really an amazing sight to see both flares right next to
    each other (their separation was less than the separation of the stars
    in Orion's belt), especially as bright as the second flare was.
    I didn't think that two operational Iridium satellites would be so
    close together -- aren't there 11 satellites spread out evenly in one
    orbital plane?  Could the second have been a spare?  If so, could the
    spare be close to becoming operational to replace Iridium 42?  My
    understanding was that the spare Iridiums are not always nadir-oriented
    like the operational satellites, and it seems to me to be too much of a
    coincidence that the spare happened to be oriented just like the
    operational satellite.
    - Kevin Mangis
      38.87N, 77.31W  (Fairfax, Virginia)
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