While looking at the M82 Supernova last night I saw a satellite. What was it?
I can’t find a tool that solves this problem. There’s a zillion tools for finding where you can see any specific satellite or when there’s likely to be a show overhead. And several tools draw all the bright satellites visible at a given time so you can go back in time and find them. But this wasn’t a bright satellite, only saw it in the scope, and I’m curious what it was.
I saw it around 9:05PM California time on March 11, 2014. It was very near M82, I’d guess about 0.3° either left or right of it. And moving top to bottom, roughly parallel to the cigar shape. It was noticeable but not terribly bright, maybe magnitude 10 or so? That’s a total guess. It was fast, crossed my 1° FOV in maybe 10 seconds. So a low orbit presumably, and given I saw it in the north I’d say polar.
Update: Satellite Safari will render satellites at any given time and has enough entries in the database to be interesting. It doesn’t include M82 as a visual reference but you can kind eyeball the space between d UMa and EN UMa. Still, nothing visible at that time and place. Calsphere 4A made a pass somewhat nearby at 9:02 PM but I don’t think it’s close enough to be what I saw.
How many satellites are there in orbit anyway? Wisegeek says 3000 and a total of 8000 man-made objects in orbit, and a total of 24,500 in all time. UCS lists 1084 operating satellites. Most projects get their data from Celestrak; their master table has some 6000 entries and the full catalog has 39,591 rows in it, here’s some basic statistics. Satellite Safari’s rendering database seems to have 1600 items in it. Stellarium’s satellite plugin has 823.