Artificial satellites in Earth orbit can be the bane of astrophotographers, leaving long streaks in hard-won subs of distant faint fuzzies!  But they also offer opportunities and challenges to capture evidence of man's entry into the Space Age!

Heavens Above is a great web site that provides satellite predictions for your location.  Registration is required but the service is free:

Heavens Above


Want to know more about Iridium flares?

Iridium flares


About artificial satellites:




The International Space Station is a challenging imaging target.  Here's the best I've done so far, using a webcam through a small reflector on alt/az mount and madly chasing the ISS across the sky with the red-dot finder!  This image is at original size, so don't bother clicking it - the left-hand image is at actual pixel size!


Click on images to enlarge...

Iridium flare, Christmas Day, 2008

Iridium flares occur when a passing Iridium communications satellite reflects sunlight from highly-polished, door-sized antennae.  The closer your location is to the ground-path of the flare, the brighter it is!

Canon 400D on tripod, 18mm, 26 sec at ISO 1600, F/4.5


Trace of the International Space Station moving across the sky in late evening twilight, 26 December 2007.  Orion in Southern Hemisphere orientation can be seen above

Canon 400D on tripod, stack of six exposures


Trace of geosynchronous satellite, 9 September 2008

These satellites have very high orbits where their orbital period matches the Earth's rotation, so to an observer they appear to be motionless in the sky, while the stars move across.

Canon 400D, stack of 20 individual shots (stack on stars)