Unless you’re an avid stargazer or work for NASA, you’d be forgiven for thinking that iridium flares were a fashion atrocity committed sometime in the 1960s. An iridium flare is in fact a brief comet-like burst of light that appears in the sky when the sun’s light is reflected off one of the many Iridium Communications satellites which orbit the earth.
Iridium satellites are used to transmit voice and data between satellite phones. Iridium Flares for Android is a notification app which alerts you whenever a flare is due to pass over in your area. It works out where you are based on GPS and cellular data, or you can input co-ordinates yourself. Once the app knows where you are it calculates the ‘flight paths’ of any nearby flares and layers them on top of Google Maps.
You can zoom in and select an individual flare and ask the app to remind you when it is due to pass over. Because you can specify an exact time for the reminder, you’ll have plenty of time to get your camera or telescope set up if you want to observe the flare.
Iridium Flares comes in free or pro varieties, with the Google Maps overlay only available in the paid version. The free version gives you the same info (date, time, magnitude and position) but unless you’re experienced at working out star positions based on the azimuth (we’re not) then you’ll want the visual reference.
If you’re not keen on astronomy or aren’t easily pleased by bright shiny things in the sky then this app probably won’t be of any interest. But if you’re either of the above then Iridium Flares is an essential download.