ISS – Phone Home

(Not to Scale!!)

   Those who know me know of my passion for observing the Space Station, as well as any other orbiter visible to the naked eye or with binoculars. I have posted many times about sighting opportunities, primarily for my geographic area, but also with the information for how to see about sighting opportunities at other locations. While this has been done through the use of the NASA website for ISS sightings, there are other web sites and ways for determining sighting opportunities. Nonetheless from the NASA web site one may choose the country, state, and city and will then receive a listing of all possible sightings of the ISS for a two-week period.

   Now NASA has made this even easier by setting up a means for subscribing to alerts sent either via e-mail or to your cell phone. Simply go to the NASA-Spot the Space Station web site and follow the directions to subscribe. Alerts are sent several hours prior to a sighting event and may be set for morning, evening or both.

   Click here to read to NASA Press Release.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

ISS Live

   The lift-off of the Soyuz rocket carrying the next ISS crew was a short while ago, and the crew is now in space and on their way to docking Thursday morning.
   View the lift-off video below.
   So as a follow-up to the launch this morning I’d like to direct your attention to this NASA web site that provides real-time data from the International Space Station. The web site ISS Live offers a variety of options like views of the activity schedule for the crew as shown in the above graphic. Another real-time graphic displays the timeline for the science activities, while another offers a menu of various mission operations consoles to observe. Want to fly with ISS? Try the ‘Visit the Space Station‘ button to have a birds-eye view of the orbiting ISS with the Earth below. The display shows the changing view of the Earth and displays data about the orbital position of the ISS.
   Where is the Space Station right now? You can get a real-time simulated visual from the ‘Visit the ISS‘ page as shown in the above graphic, or you could use the ISS Sightings web site.

Watch the first few minutes of the lift-off:

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Excellent ISS Sighting

Tomorrow, Sunday September 16th the ISS, International Space Station, will be passing over the mid-west with its 4-minute path taking it over western Missouri just before 6:00 AM

ISS Reflects Sunlight

Look toward the southwest, and at 5:58 AM a bright star-like object will appear 19 degrees above the horizon. That is the ISS as it rises above the horizon, out of the Earth’s shadow, and into sunlight. The Sun is still below our horizon however the ISS is high enough in altitude so that its underside is reflecting sunlight down to us.
The ISS will then travel toward the northeast as it rises to nearly straight overhead, reaching an altitude of 85 degrees. At that altitude it will pass by the open star cluster the Pleiades, then past Jupiter. It will continue moving toward the northeast where it will fade from view around 29 degrees above the northeast horizon when the reflected sunlight will no longer be directed in our direction.

Planets and Spacecraft

We are less than a week away from the MSL landing on Mars, and toward the end of August the Dawn mission leaves its orbit around asteroid Vesta and heads to the other side of the main asteroid belt to dwarf planet Ceres.

August 6 – 5:30 am CDT

This week Asteroid Vesta will be passing through the stars of the open cluster the Hyades – the face of Taurus the Bull. On the 6th it will be less than half a degree, actually around 14 minutes,  from the reddish star Aldebaran. Vesta is at a magnitude of around 7-8 so it is technically beyond naked eye visibility but from experience I know that it will be as a star-like point of light in binoculars. And given the star field it will be passing through makes it all the more easy to observe.
While out this week keep an eye out for the International Space Station. From my home there is what I would guess is a rare opportunity to see the ISS 4 times in one day – two in the morning and two that night on Monday the 6th. Throughout this week there are several opportunities so be sure to check the ‘sightings’ web ( for visibility in your area.
This Sunday evening go outside and look above the western horizon for a trio of relatively bright stars forming a triangle. The vertical base of the triangle is formed by Saturn and the star Spica while the west pointing tip of the triangle is the planet Mars. Within a few hours of your evening observation the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, will be landing near the 96 mile diameter Gale Crater.  At 12:31 am CDT on August 6th we should receive radio verification from the vehicle that is has landed – which including radio travel time from Mars means that the rover has actually been on the surface for nearly the past 14 minutes.
Click here to visit the Mars Science Laboratory web site.