Locate visible satellites based on your location

Started by Eclipse, June 30, 2020, 04:53:46 pm

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I've taken cadets outside to see the International Space Station pass over a meeting.  Something that can be done while we're virtual as well.

NASA has a site called Spot the Station.  You can also sign up for alerts:

In order to locate a satellite quickly, you should get the degrees over the horizon at your location (included in the satellite alert data), and measure using your hands to determine where it will be.  This is also a very useful skill to teach cadets:

Full tutorial here:

Adam B

If you have a scanner or radio that can receive in the 144 and 440 mhz range, you can listen to amateur radio communication on some satellites, such as AO-91, AO-92, and SO-50. 

With a $35 SDR USB donlge, you can also decode weather images from NOAA satellites.


I tried it last night. Remarkable accurate (except my clock was a little fast) as to where to look. It showed up exactly where the site said and moved fast.


Quote from: Eclipse on June 30, 2020, 04:53:46 pmhttps://james.darpinian.com/satellites/

I like how you took the time to dial in CAP NHQ, rather than show a view from Chicago. That was thoughtful!

A follow on suggestion to AEOs: take five minutes to look up the designated orbital body to provide some depth to your class/brief. For instance, the tracked target Eclipse shows in the above example isn't even a functional satellite (per se), just an orbiting rocket body ("R/B") piece of junk. Its from a communist Chinese Long March put into orbit from the Taiyan Space Center in the PRC. This could be the starter for a good discussion of our growing orbital debris problem, and measures being considered to control or work around it (good class topic).



Quote from: Spam on July 01, 2020, 04:10:00 pmI like how you took the time to dial in CAP NHQ, rather than show a view from Chicago. That was thoughtful!



Quote from: arajca on July 01, 2020, 01:47:04 pm...(except my clock was a little fast)...

There's a solution for that too.  Call 202-762-1069.  Automated atomic clock - official US time - kept by the USNO.


Anything with a GPS in it will also give you the correct time.
Dave Bowles
Maj, CAP
AT1, USN Retired
50 Year Member
Mitchell Award (unnumbered)
C/WO, CAP, Ret


Quote from: SarDragon on July 01, 2020, 08:23:45 pmAnything with a GPS in it will also give you the correct time.

"Maybe" and "define correct", ha ha.

There's a rabbit hole we could go down there, which involves discussing multipath errors, ionospheric errors, GPS sat constellation errors, GPS jamming and denied ops, special relativity, the observed fact that the speed of light isn't a constant as many high schools teach it is, and other aspects of PNT calculation, but... let's just leave that and stay on topic for satellite observing!

(To you cadets out there... if this stuff piques your interest, stick with it in school. Seriously! You may find yourself some day writing the documentation for a NED north east down coordinate reference system transfer alignment to launch a missile, and smile back that it all started with some really odd nerdy space discussions when you were a teenage CAP cadet)!