Did I just see an iridium flare?

At around seven PM in Burbank, CA I was admiring the sky, it looked like Mars was rising and I could make out Orion and saw the dark side of the Moon, illuminated from reflection off of the Pacific, and as I scanned the sky, there was a bright object directly overhead that I hadn’t noticed before, and I took to be Venus, but it was way too bright, and I would have noticed it before, and as I watched, it was clearly moving and grew dim over the next five minutes or so and then faded out. Iridium flare? Or something else? Obviously a manmade satellite of some kind. I googled for it, and couldn’t find much. Any ideas what I saw?

Most likely that is what you saw.

Check out the heavens above satellite prediction website. Its fairly simple and does Iridium and other satellite predictions. You have to register, but I am pretty sure its a safe place to register for.

When you see a REALLY bright flare its pretty darn cool.

That’s cool. I learnt sumthin today!

Irridium flares are much shorter than five minutes. I’m guessing that the object moved roughly from west to east? At brighter than Venus, it pretty much had to have been the Space Station.

Plot your location and the time you saw it here. That should confirm if you really saw one.

Yes, but I checked the Space Station and it is on the other side of the world right now. I believe it’s orbital period is longer than 2x 20 minutes.

It seemed to be moving North to South, when I first spotted it, it was dead on overhead, and when it finally dimmed, it was about 20 degrees south of that. It was hella bright!

If you really saw it for five minutes or more, I don’t think it was an Iridium flare. The IFs I’ve seen go from nothing to full brightness and fade out in less than a minute, and don’t appear to move significantly during that period.

I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I think you saw some other satellite. The Heavens Above site should help you figure out which one.

Butit was really bright! Admittedly at sundown, but brighter than anything I have seen.

Hm, interesting. Most satellites seen in the continental US are polar satellites, consistent with it moving North-South, but I’m not aware of any polar satellites that would be brighter than Venus for multiple minutes.

Might it have possibly been a rocket launch from one of the Air Force bases in California?

Is that even possible?

No it is not possible. I think the OP was referring to the unlit portion of the moon, the part facing Earth and not illuminated by the sun.

I’ll also agree that it sounds like like an Iridium flare except for the five minutes part. The really bright phase of one of those flares lasts more like 10 seconds.

If the duration in the OP is accurate, I’m at a loss. The ISS was definitely nowhere to be seen from SoCal last night.

I doubt he actually timed it to be a full five minutes. The fact he said it was REALLY bright is why I went with an Iridium flare in the first place. The space station is bright but it isnt Hella bright as he put it. And many a time I’ve been able to see an Iridium way before and after the flaring part.

Heavens above should clear things up for anyone that can be bothered to actually enter the pertinent information.

This is odd…this link is what heavens-above.com predicts for Burbank, CA on February 16th.

Nothing on that list is anywhere near the brightness of Venus. So…let the speculation continue. Maybe something secret being tested out of Nellis/“Area 51” AFB or Edwards AFB? It’s certainly not a rocket launch from Vandenberg AFB.

Which is exactly what he said. What’s impossible about that?

The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a satellite. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus.

Move along.

He said “the dark side of the moon” which is the commonly used, if technically inaccurate, term for the the far side of the moon, which is never visible from earth.


It’s a technically inaccurate term for the far side because that’s not what it means; what it really means is the dark side, just like the OP used it. In other words, figure9 was castigating the OP because a lot of other people make a mistake.