I saw the Space Station!

…and the space shuttle, too!

Today at work, my boss posted a list of the times the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle would be visible in the night sky. I noticed that both would appear at 10:33 pm, coming from the WNW. I went outside at that time, and there they were: two little lights, one following the other, slowly moving across the sky. They passed over me and headed off to the SW, fading from view as they moved away. The whole event took only a couple of minutes. Very cool :cool:

That is so cool, Diceman! I recall about 25 years ago here in Tucson. Back then the shuttle routinely landed in California and was flown back to Florida on top of a modified 747. The 747 sometimes landed at Davis-Monthan AFB here for fuel. One time I saw the 747 with the shuttle Challenger on its back as it flew overhead to resume its flight back East.

That would’ve been cool to see. And a bit of ignorance fought here, too: For no logical reason (except maybe that it’s how satellites work) I assumed the ISS was in a geostationary orbit. Apparently it is not.

You can track it and other satellites at http://www.n2yo.com/, and find out when they’re going to pass nearby.

So of course the time I look at it is when it’s passing over the south Pacific with not a single land mass visible. Just a shuttle icon on a water-blue background.

There is a page listing times in the next few days when it passes near to your location. You mght have to register to get to it?

There are all sorts of satellites in all sorts of orbits; only a limited number are in geostationary orbit. It’s quite useful for communications and weather observation, but it’s rather high (over 22,000 mi) and so takes a lot more fuel to reach than would be the case for a lower orbit.

The ISS orbits at a height of around 200 miles.

Sorry, when I said “satellites” I was thinking of communications satellites and hadn’t taken the other types into account – but you get my point. :slight_smile:

Wow, I didn’t realize it orbited that close. I guess it makes financial sense though, if they’re going to be sending (relatively) frequent missions there. 200 miles close enough that it almost doesn’t qualify as space, though. :smiley:

Very cool, Diceman. And kudos to Usram for the link.

One of the reasons they have to keep sending shuttle missions up to the ISS is so the shuttle can occasionally boost the ISS to a higher orbit, as it unfortunately keeps, basically, falling back down. Two hundred miles up isn’t high enough to keep it up there, as geostationary orbit would be.

NASA speaks:

“De-orbit”. Sounds better than “crash and burn”, I suppose. " :rolleyes: "

Suits, feh.

I knew you could see the space station, but the space shuttle?

How bright is it? Like Jupiter? Or Venus, even?

The real reason the ISS is not in geostationary orbit is that orbit is in the middle of one of the radiation belts.

And of course, the Shuttle could not get that high.

I watched them last night as well. Dragged my entire damn family out to see them, including the eldest’s BF!

Venus was up in the west, and was quite a bit brighter than the ISS/shuttle. The ISS/shuttle were similar in size to airplanes - tho they did not blink. I’m assuming the shuttle was in front, as it appeared brighter.

About 2/3 of the way overhead the 1st one passed directly in front of a pretty bright star in the E. Appeared to be of about the same magnitude. Was funny, as it almost appeared that they were on a collision course with it. The 2d one just missed the star.

Anyone have any idea how far apart the 2 were? When overhead, the separation was about the width of my thumb with my arm outstretched. We timed the separation at approx. 4 sec, so I guess I could try to look up their speed and try to figure out how far apart they were.

They were cruising along pretty quickly. Took maybe 4 minutes from the first appearance til disappearance. Was standing out there wondering if I’d be able to see them. When it first appeared I said “There it is” and immediately wondered if it was a plane. But quickly you could see the second light tracking along right behind the first. They really appeared to cross overhead in an arc, from the NW to the SE. They were closer together near the horizons than they were when directly overhead.

I wonder if they saw us wave?

Check out Heavens Above. It lets you put in your location on Earth and lists when and where you’ll be able to see the Shuttle, ISS and other satellites pass over you.

I saw them too! It was pretty awesome and I drug out the family as well. The ISS appeared almost as bright as venus which was close by, and the shuttle trailing right behind (about one moon diameter) looked about as bright as Jupiter, which I believe was in the sky in the east. The cool part was watching them quickly vanish about 30º from the SE horizon as they passed into the earth’s shadow (night side).

I’m in metro-detroit as well.

Thanks for the reminder. I looked it up on Heavens Above yesterday and went out to our crystal clear night last night at 10:50. I was surprised how bright they were despite the moon and how fast. Satellites I had seen in the past had a slower apparent movement. They were separated by two hand widths (10 degrees I think?). I would like to have seen them the night before when they were closer.

Is there somewhere to find out where they were (their ground track) when they passed into the earths shadow?

I watched them last night too, and took a couple of pictures.

Here’s one. It’s a little wobbly because I don’t have a remote shutter release, so my pulse was probably wiggling the camera just a bit.

Ah, found it on the JPass page. You can alter your O/S clock time to see where the satellites were at that time. You have to refresh the image after you change your clock…

I saw them last night, too. They were easily visible, even through the very light clouds that produced a halo around the moon. They were pretty bright, just a little dimmer than Jupiter at their brightest. I remember seeing Echo I as a kid in the 60s, and I’ve seen Iridium flashes. It was cool to see manned spacecraft for the first time! I’d love to see a Shuttle launch or a spacecraft fire its retrorockets.

To answer your question on flickr, the Shuttle was the leading object. The lower your orbit, the faster your velocity. The Shuttle’s a bit brighter, and in your photo that seems to be the object on the right.

Cool, thanks rowrrbazzle!