Well, how about 10,000 man-made satellites? And they are quite easy to find! If you go outside about 45-90 minutes after sundown, on a clear night, you can easily see one or two every fifteen minutes. Satellites look like stars because their hulls reflect the light from the sun. But they move in straight, steady lines. They can be mistaken for high-flying aircraft unless you look carefully and then you’ll see – they don’t have the blinking lights of aircraft. Quite fascinating, really!
Last night, under a perfectly clear, Illinois night sky, I happened to see a remarkable thing: the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station! They were visible over the Pacific coast sky on Monday (as a single bright object), as two separate objects over the midwest on Tuesday, and will be visible in the southern states tonight. They appeared at 9:40pm as two very bright stars traveling in a straight line one behind the other. Atlantis separated from the ISS on Tuesday morning, and races about 30 seconds ahead of the ISS in preparation for maneuvers back to Earth, landing in Florida on Thursday. Even though the space station is much bigger, it appears less bright than Atlantis. It took about 5 minutes for both to traverse the sky from west to east. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.It is amazing to think that there are people up there, living and working in both the ISS and the space shuttle. Were they looking down at our planet at the same moment I looked up? I hope so. And I wish them safe journey back to Earth.