Sunday, July 19, 2009

Free falling.

Nigella. Because I don't know how to photograph space stations.

As I tweeted yesterday, I intended to go outside after 10:45 PM local time and watch for the International Space Station as it arced over this slice of planet Earth. I knew I should be able to see it, because the sky was clear, and this website told me when and where to look. The site is a bit of a jumble; I finally went to the select from the map option to figure out what I needed to know. It told me, WNW at 10:55 local time, and that maximum altitude would be at 10:58, and that it would be in the SSW at 10:59. That's a pretty fast arc, but does make sense. After all the thing is in free fall at Mach 24 or something. Would I have trouble spotting it?

UPDATE: A more straightforward NASA site.

Not at all. I spied it from the front yard, which at the time was engulfed by a cloud of skunk. Why, I'm not sure. I saw no skunk. But I endured, eyes burning, and suddenly the space station appeared like the Star of Bethlehem, coincidentally above a neighbour's tree, a tall deodora cedar topped with a wire-framed Christmas star he doesn't bother taking down.

It came across the moonless sky, the brightest thing by far, like a police chopper, but silent. It moved even faster than I imagined, a bright gleam with no discernible form. I ran inside to get my binoculars, as if bringing the gleam eight times closer would be more informative.

I ran out the back door with my binos, because It was headed south, and fast. And then, as I caught it in the lenses, I saw a bonus thing--a smaller, more distant (I assume) north-south satellite crossing its path.

I watched for a few seconds more. It dimmed, turned orange, then vanished.

I'm not an astronomer, have relatively little interest in that field, but I am a science boy. It was cool.

7 comments:

Wanderin' Weeta said...

'way cool!

Tim said...

Thx for the reminder...read about it a few weeks back but completely forgot about it.

Hugh said...

Another chance tonight for the Vancouver area: 10:11 PM, 4 minute view, tracking from WNW to SE.

Wanderin' Weeta said...

Missed it by minutes! :-(

Hugh said...

WW: check the NASA site. It should be visible for the next three nights, although lower in the sky.

July 21: 10:35 (3min)
July 22: 11:01 (1 min)
July 23: 9:49 (4 min)

In all cases appearing in the W, and heading SE or more S.

Wanderin' Weeta said...

Thanks! This time, I'll be early.

Tim said...

I caught it last night...amazingly bright. Oddly enough, the NASA site disagrees with the Heavens-Above one. Heavens-Above lists a 9:24pm flyby on the 22nd for more than 5 minutes.