Finding Iridium Flares & ISS Fly-Overs From Any Location

Iridium Flare time-exposure

Iridium Flares are bright reflections from orbiting communications satellite panels. They are a VERY localized event – an observer a few miles from the “center” location of a Flare will see it at reduced magnitude – if they see it at all. Iridium Flares appear almost like a meteor, but they are VERY predictable – down to the second.

Iridium Satellite showing reflective panels

To find when an Iridium Flare (or ISS fly-over) is happening at your location, do this:

1) Get the Latitude and Longitude of the location you want to observe from – your driveway, an outreach event venue, etc. You can get it from here: GetLatLon.com
2) Create a free account at Heavens-Above.com.
3) Edit your profile at Heavens-Above.com: create a new viewing location, enter your Latitude and Longitude, and save your new location.
4) Return to the Heavens-Above.com home page, and pick which satellite you’d like to see: IIS, Iridium, etc.
5) Daytime Iridium flares are listed – try to see one!
6) Tell us if you’ve seen one!


I also HIGHLY suggest using Stellarium to find Iridium locations:

1) Launch Stellarium.
2) Stop Stellarum’s timer: mouse to lower left -> popup menu -> on the right click to right-triangle |> to toggle to pause mode ||.
3) Change to the date/time of the event: mouse to left side -> popup menu -> Date/Time [F5] -> set time of Iridium Flare you got from Heavens-Above.com.
4) Find the satellite (this is a bit convoluted): mouse to left side -> popup menu -> Configuration Window [F2] -> Plugins Tab (top, right) -> Satellites (on left bar) -> Configure Button (bottom) -> Satellites Tab (top) -> Double-click Satellite name in List (use drop-down to sort)
5) You will see something like this:

Stellarium Screen Capture: Iridium Flare over Stargate Observatory July 28, 2012 11:21:15 PM

I’m starting to post weekly Iridium Flare lists for my community on my blog.

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