Iridium Flares to Cease By End of 2018

Iridium Flares to Cease By End of 2018

The briefly-glinting satellites that have become so beloved of stargazers and astrophotographers in the last 20 years will cease to be at the end of 2018, Iridium Communications has confirmed to BBC Sky At Night magazine.

The 66 mobile satellite communications satellites in low Earth orbit owned by Iridium all have three reflective panels that occasionally catch the Sun and flare for between five and 20 seconds.

They can be as bright as magnitude -8, which is brighter than Venus, and over the years have become the target of many astrophotographers and astronomers, keen to see how many they can spot.

Websites and apps including Heavens Above, Stellarium, CalSky and CelesTrak are dedicated to predicting them, but not for much longer.

Iridium is now halfway through a launch programme with SpaceX to replace its entire fleet with a smaller, non-flaring fleet of Iridium NEXT satellites; a process that involves de-orbiting all of its older hardware.

“Of the 66 original satellites, we've de-orbited two completely, and four more are on the way, but as we continue to launch we'll continue to de-orbit,” says Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium Communications.

The rest of the story can be found at Sky and Night Magazine