two bright lights in south-east sky

by Suzee Wills
(Calimesa, California, USA)

One of these, perhaps

One of these, perhaps

On the night of August 19, 2011 @ 9:45 pm we saw two bright lights, one above the other in the south-east sky. The lower one dimmed & was gone withen a few minutes. the top one was brighter & lasted another minute or so.

Could we have seen weather satellites? We also saw the same thing the 3rd or 4th week in May. Can you tell us when we can see them again please? We live in Calimesa, California.

Barry's Response - Something that organized and consistent does appear to be any kind, including weather satellites. Which ones? No idea; there are thousands to choose from.

What are the possibilities?

Weather, earth and environmental monitoring satellites
Satellites for war and military intelligence
Research satellites in astronomy
Telecommunications satellites
GPS satellites
Space stations for human accommodation
Nanosatellites (really small ones)

The latest estimate I've seen is almost 2500 satellites in geocentric orbit (around the earth, there are a few others circling the sun and mars). Their altitudes range from hundreds to over 20,000 miles. Some wrap around the poles; some stay above the equator; some wrap around the poles and always keep the sun straight overhead. Some stay the same altitude all the time and trace a circle; others trace an ellipse.

What do we do with them when we're done with them? Some get de-orbited (How do we get them down?) but it's expensive. Some get abandoned in place (least responsible option). Some get moved to a designated orbit sometimes called a graveyard orbit (see http://www.tethers.com/OrbitalDebris.html )

The regulatory environment is still in its nascent phases - see https://itunews.itu.int/En/2063-Satellite-regulations-Improving-the-international-satellite-regulatory-framework.note.aspx

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