Imaging TV Satellites with a DIY Radio Telescope

Over on the saveitforparts YouTube channel the creator has uploaded a video showing how he was able to image geosynchronous satellites with his modified motorized RV satellite dish. The idea is to scan the sky using the motorized dish, taking Ku-band RF power readings at each point in the sky. The result forms a heatmap image of satellite transmissions in the sky. For the most part, the satellites detected are TV satellites and they are at known positions in the sky.

However, in one of his recent scans saveitforparts appears to have detected an unknown satellite just outside of the geostationary plane. He goes on to discuss what it could have been, noting that it is most likely to be the AMSC 1 telecommunications satellite.

Recently I spotted a strange "UFO" with my homemade radio telescope / microwave imager. I've used this imager before to spot television satellites in geostationary orbit, but this unknown object was something new to me.

Spoiler Alert: I was able to determine that I'm probably seeing a geosynchronous (but not geostationary) satellite in an inclined / elliptical orbit. Specifically, I think this is the AMSC-1 telecom satellite, which is in a type of orbit designed to cover high latitudes like Northern Canada.

These types of satellites don't seem to show up too often on my telescope / imager setup, since they're not as common and aren't usually aimed directly at my location. This is the first time I've managed to spot one (if that's what I'm seeing), so it seems kind of rare to catch it with this particular equipment!

Folks might also ask if this "UFO" could be the sun or moon producing microwave signals, but those were both off to the left of the scan, not where the mystery signal showed up. It's also probably not a reflection / side lobe / "lens flare", I do get those, but they show up as rings around the main signals, and in fact this mystery signal has its own faint ring around it. Since my dish takes 3-4hrs to do a full scan, this also isn't something fast like a plane or low-orbit satellite as those don't show up on my imager (I'm essentially taking a very long time exposure).

I'm still planning to upgrade / rebuild this mini radiotelescope device in the future, hopefully with more flexibility to pick up different frequencies. That should let me see even more satellites (and maybe other space stuff!).

Mysterious Space Object Detected With DIY Radio Telescope

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