Are there satellites above us now?

Tim Peake Mascot Illustration

There are so many satellites being sent into space that there is a swarm of them around the Earth. Though you might not be able to see them, at any point in time there are lots of satellites above you in the sky.

Can I see the satellites above me?

It is possible to see some larger satellites like the Iridium communications satellites with the naked eye. Often mistaken for a meteorite, they present as a bright spot moving across the night sky, that disappears almost as quickly as it appeared. They can be seen against the dark night sky because, if their solar panels are large enough and the angle between the Sun, satellite and Earth are just right, light will reflect off the solar panels down towards Earth. However, as soon as the satellite has moved sufficiently in its orbit, the angles are no longer right, and the satellite disappears from view.

While most satellites cannot be directly observed y us, we can still locate satellites by tracking their position. This is something that is not only important to ensure they don’t collide, but it gives us an insight into just how much we use satellites these days.

How do I spot a satellite?

There are several different ways to track satellites in orbit. Some satellite providers have dedicated resources to do this.

The European Space Agency maintains a live International Space Station tracker so you can see, and even be notified, when the space station is passing overhead. To sign up and see its current position, head to: isstracker.spaceflight.esa.int.

Another tool by the European Space Agency allows you to track their Galileo navigation satellites. The GalileoPVT app is available on the Google Play store for compatible android devices. It uses the satellite signals to show exactly where the satellites are using the phone’s camera.

While the above services just track a few satellites, the website: stuffin.space tracks almost every satellite in orbit. It gives a really good picture of not just which satellites are above you, but how many there are in total.