We saw the Space Station fly over last night!

It was so freakin’ cool too! My hubby and I sat out behind our barn where it’s pitch black and very little light pollution and waited for it to fly over. The local paper had the time of when it was going to pass over Charleston, so there we sat, wondering if we’d missed it.

All of a sudden there was this very bright light in the sky, moving from roughly the Northwest to East-ish. It was moving at a good clip, or as I said “Pickin’ 'em up and putting 'em down.” We watched it cross the sky until it passed over the terminator, and slowly vanished from sight. It was absolutely cool!

When I was a boy, we watched SKYLAB pass over, and we liked it.

There are actually interesting, fast moving things to be seen in the sky all the time. It’s just that most people aren’t looking up enough to notice them. A lot of satellites make obvious tracks across the sky, as long as you know when and where to look. Few things are as bright or obvious as the International Space Station or an orbiting space shuttle, but there are still a lot of others. Iridium flares (the brief but VERY bright glinting of sunlight off a particular type of communication satellite) are some of my favorite things to catch.

The Heavens Above site is a great place to see what kinds of satellite passes are going to be visible for your location in the near future. Just tell it your location (otherwise, it defaults to the intersection of the prime meridian and equator, which isn’t anywhere good), and you get a list of all the coming attractions in your particular night sky. The only real catch is that locations for satellite tracks and flares are given as altitude/azimuth angles. That’s not complicated at all, but it does require that you know where north is from your backyard, and that can get reasonably close to guessing how high up, say, 57 degrees is. And actually, for some things, Heavens above lets you clock on a start chart to see the path of the object. It does that for the ISS…I just wish it did it for Iridium flares. If I want to be double sure I don’t miss a bright Iridium flare, I look up that Alt/Az coordinate on a star chart and figure out what bright stars or recognizable constellations are nearby, so I don’t get lost.

In any case, you should be able to catch the ISS for a few days in a row every month or so. The only trick is knowing when to look, and Heavens Above is great for helping with that.

I have an uber geek but really cool neighbor who’s stacked pics of galaxies taken from his telescope in his back yard appear in international science magazines all the time. He sent me the following and always calls out whenever a flyover is coming. It’s amazing just how big and bright the thing can be. I’d say about every 10 days to 2 weeks we get a pretty good view. Here’s the link…

go to -> http://www.calsky.com/


go to “Satellites” from menu at the top of the page

then click “Internat. Space Station ISS” at top of page under the top menu

on this page follow the “eamil alert service” link and fill out the form.

Wow! What was it like?

OOOO. Thank you, and I’ll send the link to the Hubby asap!

Thanks for the linkage everyone—I think the Hubby is going to have a lot of looking to do over lunch :slight_smile:

During the next shuttle mission check the Heavens Above page to see if the ISS will be visible when the shuttle is approaching or leaving the station. The next mission is scheduled for launch Nov 18.

We’d caught this during the last mission, and it was neat to see the 2 dots following one another very closely across the sky. They were less than 5° apart.