Charles Phillips waits until the sun sets on a cold day and then carries his Nikon D200 to a baseball field behind his house.
He places his tripod on the pitcher’s mound, opens the Orbitrack app and waits for a satellite to move over the horizon.
He can’t see the satellite, but the app shows its path. So Phillips points his camera at a star it’s supposed to pass and starts taking pictures. He won’t know if he captured it until later, while adjusting the photo’s brightness on his computer, if a faint, streaky line appears in the picture.
“I just take pictures of the sky,” Phillips said, “and you have no idea if you’ve got it or not. It’s not a glamorous thing to do.”
But he feels it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Phillips is part of a small, international group that tracks classified satellites. These individuals, subscribed to the SeeSat-L email list, seek to create a more robust record of space activity, to better track what’s circling the globe and to know when objects might re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.
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