People in Taoyuan could see unusually bright flashes of light from the Iridium satellite constellation this evening, the Taipei Astronomical Museum said.
The glint, which will only last for a few seconds at about 6:31pm, is caused by sunlight reflecting off the polished door-sized antennae of the satellites, museum researcher Wu Tien-yen (吳典諺) said yesterday.
“We would like to give the public a heads-up so the phenomenon is not mistaken for a UFO,” Wu said.
The Iridium constellation, which is comprised of 66 active telecommunications satellites in low-Earth orbit, is known to cause the brightest flare of all orbiting satellites.
However, it is rare for Taiwan to see one so bright, because it requires a satellite to be on the right track and at the perfect angle.
Weather permitting, the glint could have an apparent magnitude of minus-8.1, which means it would be 500 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
Magnitude measures the brightness of a celestial body as seen by an observer on Earth and falls in value the brighter an object becomes.
The flare is to be visible to the naked eye if observers look up about 50 degrees to the south, Wu said.
The satellite constellation, which is owned by Iridium Communications, provides voice and data coverage to satellite phones and pagers across the Earth’s entire surface.
The original constellation was to be comprised of 77 satellites, which is where the name Iridium comes from, because the element has the atomic number 77.
The number of satellites was later reduced to 66, which was enough to do the job.
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