I Spy Black Satellites
February 1, 2006 6:03 AM   Subscribe

I Spy Black Satellites Amateur satellite spotters can track everything government spymasters blast into orbit. Except the stealth bird codenamed Misty
posted by Postroad (16 comments total)
I just came upon this connected issue:

AT&T Sued Over NSA Eavesdropping

posted by Postroad at 6:11 AM on February 1, 2006

Here's some more info from the FAS website, always a good resource
posted by mk1gti at 6:22 AM on February 1, 2006

AT&T mucking about with personal information they're not supposed to have is nothing new. Buncha creeps.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:28 AM on February 1, 2006

Interesting read.
posted by darren at 6:52 AM on February 1, 2006

Jerry: "Three and a half years and the space shuttle up in orbit for every single one of them (earthquakes). Don't you think that's a little bit strange?
Alice: Testing some secret seismic weapon?
Jerry: We're talking weapon of the future.
Alice: Okay, I still don't see what this has to do with the President.
Jerry: The President's in Europe at the moment and uh, the, in Turkey, right along this fault line and the thing of it is the space shuttle went yesterday.
Alice: Motive?
Jerry: Motive? How about $50,000,000. How's that for a motive? The President's cutting funding of NASA, the milk cow of the Aerospace Industry and that's a lot of milk.
Alice: So you're telling me that NASA's going to kill the president of the United States with an earthquake."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2006

I suspect Robby Rob is in on this.
posted by sourwookie at 7:40 AM on February 1, 2006

cool article. Thanks.
posted by terrapin at 8:32 AM on February 1, 2006

I really appreciate that Wired puts their print articles online. Some other publications could take a hint.
posted by smackfu at 9:15 AM on February 1, 2006

Very, very interesting. Good work.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 10:31 AM on February 1, 2006

Followup question---if there are so many satellites orbitting Earth, what does a picture of Earth from the outside look like?

This could be for some reason that hasn't occcurred to me yet, but every picture of Earth I see from space doesn't seem to have any specs floating around, regardless of the size. If there are hundreds, wouldn't at least a few be visible? Wouldn't it be cluttered?
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 10:34 AM on February 1, 2006

Because space is big and satellites are small.
posted by empath at 10:43 AM on February 1, 2006

The lighting is also really bad in space. You can only see a glint off a satellite if the sun reflects off it just right. Otherwise it's black on black.
posted by smackfu at 11:46 AM on February 1, 2006

Good article, thanks.

You can get an idea of all the stuff up there with this. [java] There's obviously more stuff than is loaded into the tracker, but there's at least 500 simultaneous tracks.

heavens-above, the site mentioned in the article, also has a database you can access that lists all the local stuff for observers, based on lat/long coordinates; stuff like Iriduim satellite flares, &c.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2006

sorry, make that "Iridium" flares.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2006

Think about trying to see something the size of a semi from a mile off. Depending on the background, your eyesight and the angle, it's not going to be very noticeable. If your eyes are as bad as mine, you'll be going "What trailer?"

Now, think about trying to see it from ten miles off. If you know just where to look and it contrasted against the background, you MIGHT be able to make it out with the naked eye. It'd be a lot easier with a telescope, but you'd have to know where to look.

Put it up in orbit, and you wouldn't be able to tell it from a star except for movement. If there were no reflected sunlight, there'd be nothing to see.

Now look at things the other way. You're looking at a bright sphere, about 7k miles in diameter. Unless you're right next to the satellite (within a couple of miles) and moving at approximately the same inclination and orbital plane, you've got very little chance of spotting it - even if it does an Earth transit while you watch. And for some strange reason they tend to keep satellites separated by a good distance - possibly because they're actually rather fragile and playing bumper satellites at a closing speed of even a few yards a second leads to all sorts of damage.

About the closest you're going to come to seeing the cloud of satellites around the Earth is through something like this from NASA... (Obviously not to scale, BTW...)

Awful lot of volume up there...

On preview - Exlotuseater got there first. Dang.
posted by JB71 at 1:06 PM on February 1, 2006

Cool link JB71/exlotuseater, thanks!
posted by bashos_frog at 1:17 PM on February 1, 2006

« Older Time spent on the internet and uses of   |   Ninja-Man Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments