29TH OF JUNE, 2026
We now officially have an artificial, extraterrestrial satellite in orbit. They are at a high altitude, very high – much higher than any typical satellite at approximately 60 600 km above sea level. For comparison the International Space Station is orbiting at just 400 km, Hubble Space Telescope is at 559 km, GPS satellites are at 20 200 km and satellites for TV are at geostationary orbit, which is at 35 786 km. Moon is 384 405 km from us.
It is good to appreciate what comes with different orbits – apart from different height it is mostly about how many times you will go around Earth in a day. The lower you are the faster you go. For example the International Space Station will orbit Earth 16 times a day. It is so called Low Earth Orbit. It is relatively easy to achieve, that’s why we put ISS there. When you go higher, you will orbit Earth slower and slower the higher you go. At the Geostationary orbit it takes exactly one day to circle Earth. This means that the angular rotation of the satellite in orbit matches the angular rotation of Earth. In practical terms it means that if you point a satellite dish at a satellite in such orbit you will never need to adjust it because the satellite occupies the same spot in the sky all the time. From our perspective it is as if the satellite was stationary high above our heads.
The aliens chose to go even higher than Geostationary into so called High Earth Orbit. It takes them exactly 2 days to do a full circle where they are. Why did they chose this altitude? Not sure. It’s very empty, we have just a handful of satellites there. It also makes it very easy for us to track it. If you want to point a satellite dish at them you do it the same way every day, or to be precise, every second day because every other day they are below the horizon and the other hemisphere has a chance to look at them. They are trying to make it easy for us I suppose? Geostationary orbit would be even easier but that would make them somewhat hovering above a specific point on Earth, invisible to half of the globe.
If I was to travel the universe and make my presence known to inhabitants of some alien planet I would not want to hover above one spot either. I can imagine that this would create a lot of speculation – why this spot exactly? Why above this country? Are they the chosen ones? What about the other side of the planet? Is the spacecraft hiding from them? Geostationary orbit is everything but neutral and in such situations I guess you want to be as neutral as possible.
30TH OF JUNE, 2026
ESA OFFICIAL NEWS BLOG
This is just a short entry to let you know that from now on I will be able to post new information here as soon as it becomes available. Public Relations at ESA recognized this blog as a good tool to communicate with the public. They will still publish their technical newsletters, have press conferences etc., but many things you will be able to read here first.
They seem to like the somewhat unofficial tone and a format that’s digestible by the masses. I feel honored.