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?
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.