Observing Geosynchronous Satellites

The October 2011 issue of Sky & Telescope contains an article entitled "Observing Geosynchronous Satellites," by Randy Rhea. It describes how easy and enjoyable it is to observe these high-flying satellites through a telescope. But it's very helpful if you can predict where to find these satellites and/or identify them after you've spotted them. This is best done with the aid of a few websites, listed below.

www.satobs.org includes a guide to "Observing Geostationary Satellites" that includes links to other resources.

www.satsig.net includes a "List of Satellites in Geostationary Orbit" with over 400 entries.

celestrak.com has orbital data (NORAD two-line elements) for 405 geosynchronous communications satellites. This data can be imported by most planetarium software to display the position of satellites.

One thought on “Observing Geosynchronous Satellites

  1. Edmund3inch1969

    Did anyone observe the extremely slow satellite orbiting west-east through Orion, the evening of December 25, 2016? I unfortunately do not have exact records but at about 10:20 p.m. EST I noticed a nearly +2nd magnitude “star” just northeast of Zeta Orionis in the Belt of Orion. With unaided eyes, no movement was noticed at all, at first. My first question to myself was, could it be a nova? I went inside and quickly returned with a par of 25 x 70 binoculars. The “star” was very gradually moving along the Celestial Equator. I only observed it about 10 minutes; I estimate it moved in relation to the stars, about two degrees. It has started to fade, and went to about +7 or +8 as it dived into the Earth’s shadow.
    It seems to have been much too bright to have been a geostationary satellite, but the thought occurred if it was. It was much slower than the average satellite observable by unaided eyes and far slower than ISS, for example. Does anyone have any thoughts on what it was?
    – Peter Becker

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