Institute of Astronomy

What are the drifting stars that we see at night?

Published on 09/05/2011 
Question: 

What are the drifting stars that we see at night?

If by 'drifting stars' you mean stars that appear to cross the sky in a matter of only around 4 minutes or so, then they're not stars, but artificial satellites. They reflect the sunlight down to the Earth's surface as they orbit around it. Some of these can appear very bright indeed - such as the 'iridium' network of satellites which have large, very reflective antennae. The International Space Station can also sometimes be seen at morning or evening twilight; and many other satellites can be seen at much fainter brightnesses throughout the night.

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Page last updated: 9 May 2011 at 08:58