Satellite, brightened' by meteorite?

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Merlin
Asternaut
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Satellite, brightened' by meteorite?

Post by Merlin » Sat Mar 06, 2010 11:37 pm

This evening, after an excellent day's gliding, I glanced up to view a very bright flash which appeared to derive from a satellite which carried on it's normal appearance thereafter.. In almost the same instance, a meteorite lit the same piece of sky.
Would the meteorite have illuminated the satellite?

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Chris Peterson
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Re: Satellite, brightened' by meteorite?

Post by Chris Peterson » Sun Mar 07, 2010 12:03 am

Merlin wrote:This evening, after an excellent day's gliding, I glanced up to view a very bright flash which appeared to derive from a satellite which carried on it's normal appearance thereafter.. In almost the same instance, a meteorite lit the same piece of sky.
Would the meteorite have illuminated the satellite?
It's possible. A meteor could be roughly centered between a LEO satellite and the ground, so a fireball bright enough to light things up on the ground could possibly illuminate the satellite enough to make it appear brighter. Such an event would be pretty unusual, however. Most likely the satellite you saw was an Iridium, or another that has a planar structure (antenna or solar panel) that briefly reflected sunlight toward you (called a flare). The association with the satellite and the meteor was probably just a coincidence.
Chris

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Wayne
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Re: Satellite, brightened' by meteorite?

Post by Wayne » Wed Mar 17, 2010 6:44 pm

I find it highly unlikely that the two events were related.

First off, meteors burn up in the mesosphere, which is around 100km up. Satellites are usually at least 400km (LEO) and quite often much higher. Secondly "almost the same instance" isn't good enough. They'd peak together with absolute simultaneous precision. A meteoroid bright enough to cause a satellite to glint would also quite literally turn night into day and would certainly survive its passage to the ground.

You also don't note that the meteor was much brighter than the satellite, which it would necessarily be. Hence you saw a chance occurence of an iridium flare with a meteor at a similar time. Not common but by no means rare.