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Can You See Airplanes With A Telescope?

Using A Telescope To Spot Airplanes At 35,000ft

Ever see an airplane in the sky and wonder where the plane was going? I was sitting outside and saw some contrails and decided to set up my telescope and see if I could get some photos of the planes as they flew by. It's amazing the detail that the telescope captured being that some of the planes were flying at altitudes of 39,000ft. Some were flying at speeds of close to 600mph. I also used an app to determine the route of the plane, its altitude, and speed and a bunch of other stuff. I took a bunch of pics but these are the three coolest ones.

This is a Southwest airlines flight flying at 39,000ft. It is painted in what they call the "Lone Star One" livery. Back in November 1990, Southwest Airlines unveiled the Lone Star One, the first to feature a state flag – to honor Texas, the airline’s home state.

The app didn't show much information but I looked up the tail number on a different system and found out that it was flying from Denver to Austin.

I thought that the plane looked pretty awesome so I used the tail number to find a picture of it while it was sitting on the ground. You can see the tail number to the left of the back door.

Photograph International Space Station Transit
Photographing Solar Transit of International Space Station

This is a Virgin American flight from Newark to San Francisco flying at an altitude of 36, 000ft. The pic was going to be clearer since it was directly above me but then it flew over a cloud that obscured the view a little bit. Still pretty cool to see the red color of the engines and tail as well as all the stuff thats on the bottom of the plane.

Below it is a picture of the exact same plane that someone took while it was taking off from an airport. You can even see that it has the same brown streak by the front landing gear.

The last photo is an augmented reality view of my setup. The app knows my position as well as the positions of the planes in the sky. If I didn't see the contrail in the sky, all I had to do was point my phone towards the sky and I could see their information. I also used the map feature to find planes that were flying towards me. This gave me some time to search the sky and set everything up for the picture.

Photographing Solar Transit of International Space Station
Photographing Solar Transit of International Space Station

This long plane is an 2001 Airbus A320-212 registered to Delta Airlines. It has 182 seats and two turbofan engines each putting out 2200hp. The plane weighs over 20,000lb. It was flying from Minneapolis to Albuquerque at 36000ft and over 490mph. 


Amazing the info that you can find on the internet.

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