Twin Iridium Flares and Approaching Thunderstorm

December 10, 2013


Photographer: Constantine Emmanouilidi
Summary Author: Constantine Emmanouilidi; Jim Foster

The photo above shows twin iridium flares streaking above the Ogooue River in Gabon as a thunderstorm approaches in the distance. I snapped this picture while preparing for last month’s total solar eclipse -- on November 3, 2013. Iridium flares can be observed whenever one of the Iridium satellites happens to be positioned to direct sunglint toward the surface. Even when night has fallen at ground level, satellites in low earth orbit can still be lit up by the Sun, briefly reflecting sunlight toward the viewer. These flares came into view within 8 seconds of each other and were approximately  0.7 degrees apart – equivalent to the diameter of about one and a half full moons. The brightness of the flares was -6.5 magnitude or more than 5 times brighter than Venus at its maximum brightness.  Lights from Gabon’s capital city of Lambarene are at right.

Photo details: Canon 5D camera;  14mm lens at f/2.8.