Observing Geostationary Satellites

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Geostationary satellites orbit the Earth with the same rate as Earth’s rotation, 35786 km (22236 miles) above the equator. They are too far and too dim for the naked eye. However, we can observe them using a mounted telescope and a camera.

We can observe many of them by:

  • using an equatorial mount,
  • aiming the telescope at a star that lies in the orbit’s path, and
  • use a camera with a long exposure setting.

By having the telescope mounted on an equatorial mount, it will track the motion of stars, and stars will appear fixed in our view. A geostationary satellite, instead, will be moving and appears as a streak of light in our view. If we were to use a fixed mount (or by turning off the tracking on the equatorial mount), it would be reversed: the geostationary satellites would appear still, but the stars would appear as streaks of light.

Using this setup, we can personally confirm that the geostationary satellites do exist.

Original Video by Wolfie6020