Two ISS Midwest Flyovers

   Approximately every 90 minutes the International Space Station (ISS) completes an orbit around the Earth. At the correct times, around sunset and sunrise, the large solar panels on the ISS reflect sunlight downward toward the Earth’s surface. Depending on the orientation of the solar panels and where you are you may be able to see the reflected sunlight off the solar panels. To the naked eye the ISS may appear as bright as Venus, around a -4 apparent magnitude.
   This evening, March 21st and tomorrow evening the 22nd the ISS will be visible, weather permitting, as it passes over the midwest United States. Use the links below to see visibility opportunities for your location.


   The ISS travels in excess of 17,000 miles per hour and it takes maybe 6 minutes or so to cross the United States from west to east.

   Two excellent websites for ISS viewing information are below. You will need to input your location information at both sites.

   ISS Sightings
   At the NASA web site you will get a list of the next several dates and times for viewing the ISS that includes it’s rising and setting times and directions of travel (always west to east), and some other information. Pay attention to the maximum altitude and length of time above the horizon.

   Heavens Above
   The Heavens Above website provides a list of viewing opportunities like the NASA web site but in addition you may see a star map showing the ISS path across the starry sky. You will find that this web site has quite a lot to offer with viewing information ranging from the ISS to Iridium satellites and other satellites, planet information, and so on. Well worth bookmarking.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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ISS Followed the Arc

   Last evening, Sunday June 11th the ISS, International Space Station orbited over my part of the world. The ISS appeared about 45o above the west-northwest horizon and followed a path that went below the bowl of the Big Dipper and in a straight line ‘followed the arc to Arcturus’ in the constellation Bootes the Herdsman. At its peak the ISS reached nearly the zenith and at its brightest had to be at least -3.0 in apparent magnitude. After a several minutes the ISS moved out of sunlight and faded from view above the southeastern horizon.
Camera settings were 18mm; ISO 800; F4.0; 2 sec.
   One dependable and accurate source of viewing information for the ISS is at NASA’s ISS Sightings web site. Here you may learn the time and direction the ISS will appear, its duration of visibility, and its time and direction it will stop being visible.

   In a similar manner the Heavens Above web site will also provide viewing information for the ISS but in addition it will display a star map showing the path across the sky. This sample graphic shows the ISS path for June 12th.

   Want to see what the Earth looks like from the ISS? Click on this link to go to the ISS HD Earth Viewing web site for a view from one of several cameras mounted on the ISS as this screen capture shows. There are two additional maps that show the current position and orbital path of the ISS.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

An EarthKam Mission

iss_flyover-ani   This coming week, the last one in January, is going to help make this month a more memorable month than I had previously thought.
How so?
Firstly January marks my 200th monthly column of Scope on the Skies for Science Scope Magazine, the NSTA‘s Professional Journal for Middle School Science Teachers. In that column I wrote about Earth viewing missions.”A New Year, A New Earth View”. take-pics   Secondly, and very coincidentally, earlier this month an opportunity came up to apply to take part in the next scheduled Sally Ride EarthKam Mission. I was accepted and so this week will be for requesting images on the orbits between Sunday and Friday.
“Doing this alone?” You ask.
I have teamed up with two Science Teachers at Summit Lakes Middle School here in Lee’s Summit Missouri, and starting Monday morning students will begin making their requests. Also my college Astronomy class students will be requesting images as part of a lab lesson on tools Astronomers and Earth Science (among others) use.
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Making requests is a simple 10 or so step process beginning with logging in to the web site. However the Teacher first needs to register at the mission website, and then register for the next mission. The teacher will receive a list of codewords a few days ahead of the actual mission dates. Each codeword may only be used once; one codeword = one picture request. I’ve prepared a guidebook of sorts using screen captures that steps through the process of logging in and making a request. A more detailed and useful guidebook is the one prepared by the Sally Ride EarthKam Mission folks. Some time ago I wrote a short blog about the EarthKam mission.
orbits-ani

Our week looks promising for getting pictures of the southern hemisphere according to the mission orbit plotter. That is weather permitting. By clicking on the desired orbit group the map will then display the paths for that group. Remember that red lines show where it will be daylight and only when pictures could be taken.
zoom-ani

Using Google Earth means that you are able to zoom in to better place your marker for a picture. There are limits to getting a ‘good’ picture, one taken from as directly overhead as possible. Specifically it is the distance from the ISS orbit path. The further away from the orbit path the lower the ISS will be relative to the horizon.

I’ll share the pictures sometime next week after we get them.

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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

ISS, The Moon, and a Comet

   This evening, December 27th, weather permitting, the International Space Station should be visible as it travels across northern mid-latitudes of North America. From my location near Kansas City Missouri the ISS will appear over the west-northwest horizon at approximately 6:13 pm CST, and be visible above my local horizon for 6 minutes before it disappears below the south-southeast horizon. Along the way it will reach a maximum altitude angle above the southwest horizon of 42 degrees; pass between two stars of the ‘Summer Triangle’, Altair and Vega; pass above the Planet Mars and Comet Finlay, and below the nearly first quarter Moon. At its greatest brightness the ISS will be between 1st and 2nd magnitude, brighter than the stars of the Big Dipper.

   Much of my information for the ISS comes from NASA’s ISS Sightings web site. From there you may tailor the predictions very specifically for your location. I then use an Astronomy program on the PC and also one on my Kindle to see the path it will follow and what if any other celestial objects it may pass. Read a little more about viewing the ISS and Iridium Flares, as well as suggestions for taking pictures of these Earth orbiters.

   The slideshow below shows the ISS at 1-minute intervals. Since this event is after sunset I have touched up the graphics – brightened and re-colored to make the scene more visible.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   
   
   
[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Tweets From ISS

iss-pic   If you have followed my postings you know that I am an avid fan of watching for the International Space Station passages over my part of the world. I especially enjoy capturing the ISS as it travels past celestial objects like the Moon.
iss-crop   In an interesting twist it is possible to take advantage of the ‘bird’s-eye’ view from the ISS and see what the ISS astronauts see as they orbit the Earth. Listed below are some of the web sites with pictures taken by ISS astronauts, however I wanted to call attention to this web site – ISS EXPS 40 & 41. This web site has a map of the world that links tweets from the astronauts to accompany the pictures they took of the Earth’s surface.
   Additionally the web site shows the position of the ISS updated every minute so you can track its current flight and position as you browse the pictures.
Click here to go to the ISS Exps 40 & 41 website.

Some ISS sighting web sites:

NASA Space Station Live
ISS Sightings
Heavens Above

Pictures from Astronauts on the ISS:

Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
ISS Astronaut Pictures of Earth

   
   
   
[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Iridium Satellite This Morning

A few seconds of an Iridium Satellite Flare.

A few seconds of an Iridium Satellite Flare.

   This morning I caught an Iridium satellite going through its ‘flare’ as it re-positioned itself reflecting light from the rising Sun in my direction. Part of the view toward the south included Mars, Saturn, and the bluish-white star Spica, and the reddish star Antares.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

ISS and Earth Rotation

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   This morning, Saturday 25 January, the International Space Station flashed its reflected sunlight in my direction as it traveled from the northwest to the southeast. at its greatest altitude it was at around 80 degrees, 10 degrees from straight. It’s path toward the southeast took it past the bright star Vega in the constellation of Lyra the Harp.
    This picture is a stacked series of several 1.3 second time exposure pictures taken as fast as I could hit shutter release. The length of each line represents the length of time exposure. The first 3 lines were before I lowered the angle of my camera bringing up into view more of the horizon. So there is an offset of the lines. As the ISS got lower in the sky the angle between the ISS and my position on Earth changed such that the streak of light got shorter.
    The arrows indicate the direction that the ISS is taking relative to the horizon, while the short line labeled Vega represents the westward direction the star Vega is following due to Earth rotation.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.