Meet the Geek Who Tracks Rogue Satellites With Coat Hangers

WIRED | 10/13/2017 | Sarah Scoles
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But Coletta didn't give up his hobby. He made a receiving antenna out of rabbit-ears, and later installed his current setup of four antennas. With these, he gets the direct transmissions from satellites, not just their reflections. Together, his antennaed view spans nearly the whole sky above his house, and a North Korean satellite—Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4—is about to come into view.

It seems to be an Earth observation satellite, possibly able to broadcast propaganda/patriotic songs. Coletta’s antenna should be to hear that hypothetical music—and he has tried and tried to catch the sat's signals since 2016. He tries again today. “Wouldn’t that be cool if it came on?” he says. But NADA.

Oh - Things - Days - Satellites - One

Oh well. One of the things he likes most these days, anyway, is searching for satellites no one officially cares about anymore. They are the ghosts of the Space Age, technically mere space junk. But a satellite operator's trash is a satellite hunter's treasure.

On a whiteboard to Coletta's left is a list of antiques, their frequencies and launch years scrawled beside them. NOAA-9—"probably the most musical satellite up there,” which sounds like your drunk uncle whistling—is one of his favorites.

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