How to Identify Unidentified Objects in the Night Sky

Several nights ago, I tried to see the Perseid Meteor Shower in Charmouth, an idyllic south coast town, but the weather wasn't cooperating. I was also using my DSLR to try and capture some of the fainter meteors. I, however, noticed an unusual object when I was going through the photos later on that I wasn't sure how to identify, so in this article I'll share what I did to identify that object, and maybe this will help you identify objects in the night sky as well that you are unsure about.

Click to enlarge satellite photo
I was looking through my collection of photos, I took the night before the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, and on one particular series of photos where I captured a meteor, I noticed a small moving star. Rather than ignore it, I decided to try and work out what it is.

Now, it didn't look like the standard satellites you'll see, which look similar to the example satellite photo. It was basically a long line moving across the screen in a long exposure photo, so I knew it must have been something special. My second thought was it wasn't a minor planet because, as you can see in this article, they move against the sky like small stars, yet they take hours to see their movements, so that kind of ruled it out. But it did tell me that the object was likely closer than one of the minor planets in the asteroid belt, but further away or slower than a lot of satellites.

After some more research I found the heavens above website, which allows you to enter your location and look at the time of what's in the skies against what's in the skies and it came up with a Russian vehicle Cosmos 2369 rocket body, which is actually a rocket body. This matched the location of the object I saw in the photo as well as the time to a high degree.

It shows that with a bit of research you can actually identify what's in the night sky even at an altitude about 860 odd kilometers up, so that just goes to show that with a bit of research you can really identify what's in the night sky. It has happened to me before on previous long exposure photos, similar objects go across there that don't follow a standard pattern for satellites, so maybe that motivates you to identify what you are actually seeing.

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