Look Out Above: Spy Satellite in Plain Sight

"Deep Black" is the time-honored shorthand used for America's second space program -- the one the involves secret spy satellites.  William Burrows, a writer and professor at New York University, wrote a book by that title 20 years ago.

For the moment, part of Deep Black is very much in the open.  An American intelligence satellite, having broken down shortly after launch in 2006, is quickly losing altitude, and the Bush Administration is being very public about its plans to destroy the satellite before anything hits the ground.

How secret a satellite is this?  SpaceWeather.com says you can see it with the naked eye as a slow-moving star -- and has posted photographs of it taken by enthusiasts.  Look HERE for a time-lapse movie shot by Friedrich Deters from LaGrange, North Carolina.  (Don't be distracted by the bright dots of stars and planets--the satellite, says Deters, is the vertical streak moving downward in the center of the frame.)

Want to take your own shots?  Heavens-Above allows you to track the satellite, as well as many other objects in orbit.  Log on if you like, or click on "Select your location," and you'll get a map and sighting predictions.

These folks are not revealing big secrets that other countries can't figure out for themselves.  (An alleged Chinese spy was arrested earlier this week.)  As for what the satellite was for, we'll leave that to the people at John Pike's GlobalSecurity.org.

(Air Force photo of the 2006 launch of the satellite via GlobalSecurity.org)

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