Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Watch the Skies!

STARTING TONIGHT, Southern Utah!What am I talking about? The Space Shuttle Discovery is currently docked with the International Space Station, presenting unusually good opportunties for viewing them from down here on earth. If you've got a telescope or even a powerful pair of binoculars, you might even see the famous T-shape!

In Southern Utah, our best views begin tonight @ 10:43 PM, Thurs @11:04PM, and Saturday 6/7/08 @10:14 PM, and Monday 6/9/08 @9:23 PM when the ISS/Discovery will make a visible pass from NW to SE. Tonight and Thursday will be quick low-horizon passes lasting about a minute. Saturday and Monday passes will fly directly overhead, lasting from 2-3 minutes each!

Approximately 2,000 satellites are currently in earth orbit. Thousands of smaller pieces of junk also circle the globe. Most are faint and rendered invisible. But depending on who's counting, anywhere from 100 to 300 satellites can be seen with the unaided eye. These are generally more than about 20 feet in length and anywhere from 100 to 400 miles above Earth, a region called "Low-Earth Orbit".

The International Space Station is by far the biggest and brightest hunk of technology circling the planet. Its solar arrays span 240 feet (73 meters). The main modules are together 146 feet (45 meters) long. It stands as tall as a nine-story building and weighs 412,000 pounds (186,900 kilograms). And right now, with the space shuttle Discovery attached, it is even larger.

Traveling around the Earth at 18,000 mph (28,970 kilometers per hour) at an average altitude of 240 miles (386 kilometers), the station can appear to move as fast as a high-flying jet airliner, sometimes taking about four to five minutes to cross the sky, visible to the unaided eye as a point of light similar to aircraft lights.

For more general information on tracking the International Space Station as it passes over your area, go to spacewatch/iss viewing and scroll down to When and Where to Look. Or, see this Nasa Site which allows you to enter your country, then click on your state, then your city & see what will be visible in your area for the next 10-days. Concentrate on those passes with the highest Max Elev (anything above 50 Degrees is good -- 90 Degrees would be directly overhead).

10 comments:

Ingrid said...

great info, I'll have to accost my neighbour who has two telescopes!

Ingrid

DivaJood said...

Oh, and here in Chicagoland, we will see nothing but thunderclouds!

Seriously, if you could afford it, would you not love to go into space? I surely would, with or without Richard Branson.

D.K. Raed said...

Ingrid:
I saw your comment at Enigma's & was going to leave you a comment about foreign press coverage, but I'm not sure which blog you are using.

Diva:
We got socked with T-storms today, too, so I couldn't see much out there tonight. Saturday & Monday are supposed to be our best nights for viewing. I just looked up Chicago ... if you're still there, Friday is your best viewing night. 9:21PM passing from WNW to SE, 3-minute duration, max elev of 87-degrees (that is almost directly overhead!).

And yup, absolutely, I'd go to space in a hot flash!

Ingrid said...

dk..I'm mostly on blogger round table. The other ones I started I ended up not having that much time for. Now the summer is here I am hoping to change my formats and put it all in one,
thanks for any leads!

Ingrid

enigma4ever said...

Ingrid::
I wrote back to you about the foreign press question.....

DK:::
such a cool post...but alas Thunderstorms yesterday and more today....Will try again...

an average patriot said...

Wow, we have adverse weather here right now and tonight but I hope you get a view. Star watching from your area is fantastic. Compared to Massachusetts you almost feel like you can reach up and touch. Good Luck, let us know!

Cart said...

Due to the curvature of the earth, and the fact I don't have a neighbour worth accosting, this event will pass me by :(

DivaJood said...

I'm still here, but remember, Chicago has a lot of light pollution - so no, I did not get to see it. Bummer.

Instead, I did see the Indiana Jones movie. It's a bit predictable but fun. Not a good story, but it's a fun thing to do on a hot summer night.

D.K. Raed said...

Ingrid, Diva, Enigma, Cart, Avg Pat: sorry I've been AWOL. Got a little family dog situation going on now. More about that later. Don't worry, our dogs are fine, this involves a nephew's dog & a pit bull.

D.K. Raed said...

****** A Little ISS Follow up:

We had T-Storms & cloud cover the first couple nights, so missed those opportunities. Saturday night was supposed to be our best view, but we got engrossed (or grossed, depending on your point of view) watching Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" & didn't notice the brief view time window passed right by! So .... Monday night was our final viewing opportunity, and this time, I made sure we were out there, scanning the skies. Even though it was still light outside, the ISS was perfectly visible ... a big large white light appearing right on time out of the NW. Since it was dusk, there was plenty of reflected sunlight beaming out of it. It doesn't blink, or have flashing red or blue/green lights like a plane. It is BIG, very bright & unmistakeably NOT a plane. I used EK's Vietnam field binoculars & swear I could see the T-Shape on approach! As it passed almost directly overhead, I kept thinking about those guys docked in Discovery up there working on the arm this week. It took about 4 or 5-minutes before it passed beyond our range of vision, heading SE on its way to El Paso, I guess. It made me feel small, but also important, to be alive at this time of humankind's development when nighttime superstition has given way to technological understanding. yes, there is so much to understand down here on our beautiful planet earth, but there are also the stars beckoning to us. I hear them calling ...