Step By Step — How To See Starlink Satellites

60 satellites of the Starlink-6 filmed over Paris on April 23, one day after launch / Thierry Legault

The later clutch of 60 satellites launched on April 22 adding up to now 420 Starlink satellites in orbit. In the coming week or so many locations in the U.S, Canada and Europe will be able to see all 60 parading in a fairly compact line across the sky at dusk. I guarantee you’ll be amazed.

Here in the Duluth, Minn region., Sunday evening, April 26 presents a decent opportunity to see them. The parade of satellites will first appear at 9:05 p.m. low in the southwestern sky when they’ll be too faint to see. But 2 minutes later at 9:07 p.m. you should see a short, twinkling line of tiny lights above and left of Sirius (see the map below) when they reach their greatest altitude and brightness. Although it will still be twilight at the time the Starlink “string” should still be faintly visible as it passes from the southwest across the south and southeastern sky.

Step 1: Go to Heavens Above

The 2-minute video above captures their remarkable appearance — when they’re still bunched close together — better than any I’ve ever seen. Over time the separation between the satellites increases as they move to their individual orbits, so try to see them now. To check on Starlink passes for your city anytime, go to Heavens Above , log in and check the box to remember your password. You don’t have to log in but it makes it more convenient when you check back.

This is the table you’ll see for Duluth, Minn. for Sunday night, April 26 when you click on the Starlink passes for all objects from a launch link on the Heavens Above page. The third column lists the satellite brightness; the fourth column the time of its first appearance in local, 24-hour time (so 20:59 = 8:59 p.m.). Times shown in blue are when the satellite is highest and (usually) brightest.  If you click anywhere on a line you’ll get a map of that satellite’s path like the one shown below. Chris Peat / Heavens Above

Step 2: Click the Starlink link

Once logged in, select your location (upper right), fill in the name and click Update at the bottom of the page. Now return to the homepage and click on the Starlink passes for all objects from a launch link. That will send you to a table with a list of Starlink satellite passes, each closely spaced in time. Click on the first one on the list, and you’ll get a map of its path across the sky. All the others will follow along a similar path.

When using the map remember that the center represents the overhead point while the outer edge is the horizon. If you want to see the an individual Starlink’s ground track — the path on the surface directly below the satellite — click on the ground track link. You find an example of a ground track at the end of this article.

Step 3: Check brightness and time

Starlink satellites from the April 22nd launch pass over Duluth, Minn. on April 25 at dusk. Bob King

Besides the time and path you’ll also want to know how bright the Starlinks will be. That’s listed in column 3 of the table labeled Brightness / mag. If the brightness or magnitude is around “1” or “2” they will be easy to see. Magnitude 3 and 4 require a dark sky without twilight while 5 and 6 are VERY faint. Pick the passes with ones and twos.

There have been seven Starlink launches to date. When you click the Starlink passes link it defaults to a list of satellites from the most current launch. You can also get predictions for other launches by clicking on the Launch window under the heading on the left side of the page and selecting another.

Step 4: Go outside and look

Finally, go outside 5-10 minutes before the pass to get oriented so you know which direction to look. If the sun set recently you can face that way and know it’s west-northwest. East is at your back, north to your right and south to your left. Or use a compass or a free compass app. iPhones have a built-in compass utility under settings and programs. Newer Androids do too, but you’ll need to download and install a free app like Digital Compass if you have an older Android.

Map of Starlink-1322 path over the Duluth, Minn. region tonight (April 26) with times marked every minute. 39 additional, closely-spaced Starlinks will follow virtually the same path. A second group will trail behind these starting at 9:18 p.m. and shine brightest at 9:20 p.m. with additions by the author. Chris Peat / Heavens Above

When looking for the Starlinks be sure you scan up and down the entire path. Typically they’re brightest when they’re highest but not always. Also, the predicted time can be off a couple minutes either early or late especially if the launch was recent. Start a few minutes early and hang around a few minutes later in case they don’t show on time.

This is the ground track of Starlink-1322 tonight (April 26). The highlighted circle is the region where the satellite is at least 10° above your horizon. The size of the circle depends on the height of the satellite. The closer your city is under the track, the brighter the Starlinks will appear. Chris Peat / Heavens Above

Below is an example of a bright pass tonight for Duluth, Minn. If you have any difficulties seeing or understanding how to find the Starlink path for your location please contact me via the Comments area and I’ll give you a hand. Good luck!

2 Responses

  1. Mike

    15 minutes ago watched a very bright satellite pass slightly to east on a approximate south to north transect. It was so bright and as I watched it faded to a very dim satellite. Could I have seen an Iridium satellite?

    1. astrobob

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for writing. It sounds like an Iridium but those are all down now and replaced with new satellites that don’t flare like that anymore. Lots of satellites have occasional bright flares. If I knew your location and time I might be able to identify it for you.

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