Question About Star Light

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  1. EsmeSanBona profile image93
    EsmeSanBonaposted 8 years ago

    Hi all,

    I'd like to call myself an amateur astronomer but I don't even have a telescope, I only have about 50 solar system apps that I study quite frequently.  I do know quite a bit about the stars and the solar system and anytime I have an entire free night, I stay up until dawn watching--something I've done since childhood.

    Recently I've been seeing something I'm hoping someone can explain.  It's this huge object, shaped like a saucer that hovers over my head and ....

    Just joking.  Actually, what happens is that I'll be watching a particular constellation or star and it will appear that a star or object will almost flash for a split second.  I'm not talking about the slight variance one typically sees or the way stars brighten coming out of cloud cover or fog.  It's like a small, quick flash in the sky.  I discounted it the first five times I saw the phenomenon, but tonight i was outside and saw it happen three times.  It isn't anything blinding or cataclysmic, but it bothers me because I can't find an answer for it.  it isn't a plane's light because I always scan the area carefully and it never recurs. 

    Does anyone have any idea about this other than I need to get my eyes checked or I'm your basic run of the mill wackadoo?


    1. A Troubled Man profile image60
      A Troubled Manposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Having a telescope can be expensive, considering all the accessories and eyepieces that are over and above the price tag of the telescope.

      A great alternative is a nice set of binoculars. Even that will really expand your vision on those nights you do decide to sit up.  For example, the Andromeda Galaxy's spiral shape can be seen as can other nebula and star clusters shapes be better viewed.

    2. ptosis profile image71
      ptosisposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      It's sounds like an iridium flare  - those happen dusk & dawn. I saw one, whet online and confirmed the time and direction to be an iridium flare.

  2. paradigmsearch profile image60
    paradigmsearchposted 8 years ago

    Atmospheric conditions cause stars to twinkle? If that is the case, it is more pronounced near the horizon. Another thought; moving air pockets and/or extreme turbulence? smile

    As for the saucer, that was me.

    1. EsmeSanBona profile image93
      EsmeSanBonaposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for responding!

      Nope, this is different than the way stars seem to get "chatty" as they sink down closer to the horizon. I don't know enough about atmospheric phenomenon in detail to say that isn't it, but it doesn't feel right.  I spend a lot of time observing the sky, so I'm used to seeing fluctuations that I'm guessing are atmospheric.  This is different in that it is more like a singular pop of light rather than a twinkle that become more pronounced at time or when a star brightens when fog passes.  I'm wondering if maybe I'm not actually seeing a star, but a planet.  Is there any kind of combustion that is common on planets closer to us or larger ones that might suddenly flare up but be visible from earth?

      As for your saucermobile--when you're in the area again, land for crying out loud and left me check out your ride...or at least give a girl a beam up!

  3. mathom profile image83
    mathomposted 8 years ago

    Reflection off tumbling satellite or space junk?
    Iridium flare? I think there's a few iridium satellites still up there; they used to be infamous for causing UFO sightings.

    The only things that flare in our solar system (thank goodness) are:
    1. The sun
    2. Volcanoes on Io, Triton, and someother outer moons, but they're much too small and far away to see from Earth
    3. Lightning and the northern/southern lights on the gas giants, but again, too far out and too faint to see

    Honestly, atmosphere's surprisingly erratic stuff for peering through, once you've got 20 miles or so of different air layers. I've seen stars do that. Normally stars flicker like heat haze wobbles, but every now and then you get a patch of air of significantly different temperature and/or turbulence from the rest, enough to cause a momentary sharpening or dimming like a lens passing in front of your eye. That's why we've got to lift space telescopes above the atmosphere to get really clear images for deep sky studies.

    1. EsmeSanBona profile image93
      EsmeSanBonaposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I believe iridium flare fits the bill!  I looked them up and this looks like what I've seen.  I knew it couldn't be a star because then we'd be talking nova territory and this was way too fast to be that.  But I also knew that as much time as I've spent staring up, it was more than an atmospheric thing.  I just couldn't find a source because it's kind of hard to google "starish kind of light that is kind of like a flash but not really"  :-)

      And now that I think about it, I've seen more of these flashes close to dawn, so they may not even be iridium but simple reflections of the sun. 


      Thank you for not treating me like a nut job or an idiot.  I am a bit of both, but don't like outside verbal reminders of my plight.

      Seriously, thank you!!!

      1. mathom profile image83
        mathomposted 8 years agoin reply to this

        Well, the sky does do wonky stuff.

        At least you aren't one of the millions of people who have been fooled by Venus over the last 200 years or so. If a plain old planet can cause that much confusion, no wonder fainter stars do!

        1. Robert pires profile image61
          Robert piresposted 8 years agoin reply to this

          it's a good question.i haven't see anything like that but i see spiral shape object with a kind of fog inside it with my naked eye.i wonder if it's possible to see Andromeda galaxy with naked eye.i also see the bright white light on the sky which is a can i guess that those white objects are satellites??? because they are nearer to earth than stars and i solve this problem by looking at the airplane relative to those white objects.i see that spiral object each night.first i thought that it was just a group of stars but there is a fog inside of them.

          1. EsmeSanBona profile image93
            EsmeSanBonaposted 8 years agoin reply to this

            I don't know enough to comment on what you are seeing, but you might go here: and locate the area where you see the phenomenon and see if anything matches, such as a nebula, etc.

          2. mathom profile image83
            mathomposted 8 years agoin reply to this

            Yep, Andromeda Galaxy is visible to the naked eye, although you need far better eyes than mine to see it. I'm jealous! here's how to find it.

            Satellites look like fairly bright "stars" that move across the sky like slow airplanes. They tend to wink, flare or flash as sunlight catches them, since they're high enough up that they can still be in sunlight for several hours before or after the ground is in shadow. (Just like the top of mountains stay lit longer as the sun dips below the horizon.) Also, space junk -- bits and pieces of broken/collided satellites, pieces off various rockets and spacecraft -- can glint or flash in a very irregular way, because it's tumbling. Again, space junk is traveling around the Earth at a different speed from the Earth's rotation, so it tends to move against the star background like a plane.

            1. EsmeSanBona profile image93
              EsmeSanBonaposted 8 years agoin reply to this

              Awesome!  I loved that link.  Thanks!

              1. Robert pires profile image61
                Robert piresposted 8 years agoin reply to this

                yes i think it's the galaxy.i still think that there is a fog inside of it.i don't have a telescope so that i can't see it closely.i will buy a telescope but i am not sure whether it's a galaxy or constellation of stars.

  4. rebekahELLE profile image87
    rebekahELLEposted 8 years ago

    The night sky was particularly spectacular last night.  I spent some time star gazing.  I would love to hear suggestions for a great set of binoculars.  I wouldn't use a telescope often enough, maybe someday in the future.  Then again.. what is future???  lol

  5. melpor profile image93
    melporposted 8 years ago

    Esme, I agree with Paradigmsearch answer. You did mention you see this at dusk or dawn quite frequently. If you are looking at starlights near the horizon you are seeing the starlight traveling through  a thicker portion of the earth's atmosphere. The movement of air is much greater near the horizon than if you are looking at the night sky at a much higher angle. This higher turbulence causes the brightness of the starlight to vary a lot more considerably than the light from the stars that you are observing at a higher angle in the night sky.

    1. EsmeSanBona profile image93
      EsmeSanBonaposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I have decided that the light pop is the satellite thing though.  I appreciate paradigm's answer and it would normally work for me, except that I know how the stars look near the horizon and am familiar the way that they suddenly brighten up when they are at that angle.  These pops of light are way, way, way, way, way brighter than those and they move--that is, they do not occur in the spaces that do not always correlate to a star's position in the sky. And I do also see them in places that are not near the horizon.  I'm pretty confident they are satellites.  I just never knew satellites reflected light like that.  I've seen them moving before and have become familiar with those little rapid dots that aren't stars, planes or meteors.  I do love learning all of these facts though about the sky!


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