A new electronic map will show users the locations of thousands of satellites that are soaring miles above the surface of the Earth. By using this map, satellite hunters will be able determine what satellites are flying above them at any given time.
In Earth’s orbit, there are more than 2,250 different satellites whizzing by at up to 18,000 miles per hour. Some of these satellites are even large enough to be seen with the naked eye, but it can be difficult to figure out which satellites are above your location.
That’s where the new map comes in. The satellite map is called “Line of Sight”, and it traces the orbital path of more than 1,000 different satellites within Earth’s orbit. By using these orbital paths, Line of Sight can predict the locations of these satellites at any given time. The map was developed by Mapzen graphics engineer Patricio Gonzalez Vivo.
By entering any address into Line of Sight, users can see what satellites are within their current view. Users can also choose a preselected city so they can find nearby satellites without having to enter in an address. Additionally, users are able to zoom out and watch all of Earth’s satellites in one trippy visualization.
While the map is still a work in progress, Gonzalez Vivo says that he hopes the map will one day be used to help people track satellites in real time. By using the interactive map, users can see the satellite’s identifying name, height, operational status and visibility.
There are other satellite tracking websites that have been on the internet for years, but none of them capture the detail presented by Line of Sight. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world are known to use the internet to track satellites.
Even NASA has taken notice of Gonzalez Vivo’s tracking map.
Gonzalez Vivo said, “I have a friend who works in NASA and she sent me a tweet asking if I can add a feature where you can search for a specific satellite. I was very excited that they wanted to use the map in NASA to show it to somebody else.”
For now Gonzalez says the map isn’t much use to him, as he lives in Brooklyn, where light pollution makes it difficult to observe satellites. Still, other satellite watchers in more accessible areas should be able to use the map to their advantage. And when Gonzalez Vivo travels to upstate New York for the holidays, he says that he will make full use of his creation.