Augmented reality mobile apps
If you happen to be outside at night and want to spot a satellite on a whim, a smartphone app like SkyView (Android and Apple) will do most of the work for you. (Orbitrack is another great app with similar features, but there's currently no free version.)
SkyView allows you to search their catalog for a satellite then the AR features of the app point you in the direction of the satellite you’re looking for. Apps like SkyView are best for impromptu satellite spotting sessions.
- SkyView provides an AR fueled viewing experience that makes it fun and easy to spot bright satellites and other luminous objects in space.
- To find a specific satellite, simply use the search bar to look for objects like the International Space Station or click on Brightest Satellites for a full list of options. The paid version of the app has a more comprehensive list of satellites than the free version.
- SkyView will then return you to the AR experience. Move your phone in the direction on the on-screen arrow to find your chosen object. SkyView will show you where the satellite has recently passed as well its predicted path
- Once you have found your satellite, you can learn more information about its history and how it is currently used by clicking the info icon at the bottom of the AR experience.
Heavens Above and Calsky
If you want to find a specific satellite, we recommend planning ahead because satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) do not appear at the same spot and time each day.
Sites like Heavens Above and CalSky will tell you all the times a particular satellite will be visible at your location, which passes will be easiest for you to see, and plot the satellite’s path along star maps.
The International Space Station (ISS) is a good satellite to start with because it is quite bright (brighter than some planets). And there are people onboard! This video will walk you through using Heavens Above to plan your satellite hunt.