Help track satellites (for astronomers worried that they’re starting to block out the stars.)

Satellite Streak Watcher is a project on the AnecData citizen science site that asks anyone with a cell phone to take a picture of the night sky to see just how many satellites there really are overhead:

In the coming years, thousands of satellites will be deployed into low Earth orbit as part of the new internet mega-constellations. In the three hours after sunset and before sunrise, these bright streaks from reflected sunlight will crisscross the night sky and wreak havoc with astronomers trying to photograph astronomical objects from the ground. It will also be a problem for amateur astronomers for the same reasons. This project will record for posterity the growth of this problem over many years as participants use their smartphones to photograph the increase in these streaks over time from locations around the world. These satellites will be bright enough due to sun glint to appear with magnitudes between +2 and +6m, and so can be readily photographed using most smartphone cameras. At the speed of the satellites, they will streak across the sky from horizon to horizon in about 1 degree per second, so in 10 seconds they will travel 20 times the diameter of the full moon across the sky. To photograph this event here’s what you need to do.

Step 1 – Attach your smartphone to a tripod using an inexpensive bracket.

Step 2 – On an evening before your shoot, set your native camera app at >10 seconds, and ISO > 800, or use a second-party app

Step 3 – Adjust the settings to get the best star pictures and lowest sky brightness.

Step 4 – Go to and click on ‘Satellite database’ which predicts satellite transit events and provides a sky map.

Step 5 – Follow the Heavens-Above directions to find the next time a satellite will pass across your local sky.

Step 6 – In the minutes just before the event is predicted to start, take a few test photos.

Step 7 – At the predicted start of the event, begin taking your sequence of photos until the event ends.

Step 8 – Upload the best of the photos you took. Don’t forget to indicate the name of the star constellation being ‘streaked’ in your photo!

Step 9 – Make as many of these observations during the year as you can!