Question Satellites reflecting bright green light?

Apr 5, 2020
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[Edited]

My wife and I were looking at the stars last night while visiting Orcas Island, WA (48° 38.122' N 122° 59.204' W), as it was rather clear. We could make out the milky way and we were watching for meteors; specifically, the perseids meteor shower. We had seen many satellites fly over, but around ~11:20 pm - ~11:45 pm we saw one very bright sustained green light, rather low in the western sky traveling south-ish for over 10 minutes that looked like nothing we'd ever seen before. After watching this light for 6+ minutes, we noticed a 2nd green light traveling the same path as the first, starting from a similar north-westerly point traveling south (towards Jupiter and Saturn at the time). None of the stars or planets near the green lights were color shifted or distorted in any way. The green lights eventually headed lower and lower at the horizon and slowly faded.

If anyone has experienced this phenomenon, or simply knows what we were observing in the night sky, I would really love to hear back from them. Since returning home, and completely failing to find an answer when Googling the phenomena, I have become even more curious about what we actually were observing. I haven't found much about "green light" and "satellites", other than the ICESat-2 satellites using green lasers to make measurements.

Possible self answers:

1) At first, we thought it was a plane because of how bright green the lights were, it's speed, and how low it was in the sky; however, we both were suspect of that theory as we should have been viewing a red light on the planes left-wing, not a green light. Additionally, there was no 'strobe' light flashing, so, we are pretty sure I was a satellite, but I fully admit that we are novices when it comes to watching dark night skies, as our normal nighttime views at home are obscured by urban light pollution. Both my wife and I are familiar with spotting the ISS and satellites that are either white-ish or sometimes reddish, zipping overhead... but never the vivid bright green we were observing at the time.

2) I've been wondering if it was a new Starlink satellite, (possibly one of the newest models that are designed to reduce its reflectivity... but maybe those have not launched yet). Or possibly, another satellite type that I have never observed before, that simply reflects green light?

3) Lastly, I also have been pondering if it was simply some rather reflective satellites, that was reflecting white (or blue) light from the setting sun, which was well over the horizon (somewhere in the pacific), and that light was being color shifted to green by the prismatic effects of our atmosphere, much like the "green flash" phenomena occasionally seen during ocean sunsets. I am no physics expert, but I could imagine (hypothesize) that if light viewed at sunset can be color shifted to green in just one long pass through our atmosphere (as observed in the "green flash"), then it seems logical that light reflected off a low westerly satellite could easily have traveled through our atmosphere twice if it directly bounces off the satellite from over the horizon, or potentially 3 times, if the light reflected off of the ocean, to the satellite and back down to the observer on earth. Naturally, the longer, indirect path of the bounced light would provide the needed extra distance through our atmosphere to color shift the light to green. However... all that said, I would expect this phenomenon to be rather commonplace and show up in my Google searches. This makes me doubt myself and suspect that I'm just coming to false concussion based on flawed human pattern-matching... :(

At the moment, I am leaning towards the light bending, `PHYSICS!!!` based answer (#3); however, I am not an expert in this field and my hypothesis is based on some random YouTube videos I have watched over the years; thus, I am rather suspicious of my guestimation. I would really love to hear back from someone more knowledgeable on the topic. :D
 
Last edited:
Mar 5, 2020
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This is worse than I thought. Elon Musk is working for the Triffids.

He is going to get everybody to go out and watch all his pretty satellites and the next day all those people will wake up blind!
 
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