Thursday, February 23, 2006

Good Week For Observing ISS in North America

Ever get a chance to see the International Space Station (ISS) with your own eyes? Its orbit will provide for a series of highly favorable passes over North America over the course of the next week or so.

To be favorable for naked-eye observation, you must be in the dark while the ISS, flying overhead, is illuminated by the sun (so, this happens either hours after sunset or hours before sunrise).

Use the Heavens-Above web site to help figure out when the ISS is visible from your location, and where to look in the sky. Be sure to synchronize your clock with the official time (important, since the window is only a few minutes).

When it's flying over, you pretty much can't miss it. It will be comparable to viewing Venus or an airplane with its landing lights on, but will slowly move across the sky until it crosses into the day/night terminator, at which time, it will just disappear.

Heavens-Above will also calculate for you other satellites that you can observe in pretty much the same way. The best viewing that I can remember was one year when the ISS and Space Shuttle flew overhead shortly after the Shuttle had detached from the space station. So, instead of one point of light, I saw two in close proximity to one another.