Saturday, March 29, 2008

International Space Station

Thank the dog. Just after eight pm on Friday night, she let me know she wanted to go outside. So we went out back. The sky was clear, the sun had set just a short time before, and the stars were shining.

Image from : http://www.fanboy.com
I'm pretty sure this view is of the Straight of Gibraltar, with Morocco on the left and Spain on the right, making it very close to the location of the station when I first spotted it.

I noticed a very bright light moving slowly from the southwest toward the northeast. At first I thought it was a plane, but the light was very bright and steady. No blinking. I followed it around the house to the front. Callie saw it immediately and barked at it the whole time it was visible. She's never barked at airplanes before.

I've seen satellites go by overhead over the years, but this was different. It was big and incredibly bright; brighter than any satellite I've seen. A plane with a light that bright would have been low enough in the sky that I would have heard its engines, but this was silent.

So I thought, could it be the space station? I came upstairs and logged on to my favorite sky-watching web site, Heavens Above*, and sure enough, the space station was visible where I live for about eight minutes at the very moment we were outside, and its path was the one I observed.

To me, this is very cool. Just by chance to see the International Space Station fly by. If I were truly a nerd, I would have known it was going to be visible and been ready with binoculars, even though I know it's just the sun glinting off the huge array of solar panels that I'd see and nothing more. Maybe next time.

*Heavens Above is a very cool site for seeing what's going on in the sky. In addition to tracking satellites and other orbiting objects, they provide star charts and the positions of the planets and comets for any time, any place on Earth.

9 comments:

  1. Walt
    Have you seen this piece?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7319576.stm

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  2. That's fascinating, luck you. Thanks for the site, I will look it up.

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  3. That was probably a once in a lifetime event, Walt! The stars were aligned to put you in the right place at the right time.

    BettyAnn

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  4. beaver, I hadn't, but I did see news reports about it on tv. That tracking window is cool.

    victor, luck is right - even when it's going overhead, you need a clear sky and it has to be at the right moment in time so the sun will reflect.

    bettyann, the stars certainly were aligned!

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  5. that is soooo cool! the city accidentally had its city lights off the other night and it was so nice to have the town extremely dark so that the stars popped right out of the sky.

    i bet you have some wild asparagus too! but i would trade you for some morels any day!!

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  6. riana, I love living in the country and being able to see the bright stars at night.

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  7. Very cool indeed. Lucky you.
    Susan

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  8. That is very cool. Sorry I missed it.

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  9. s&s, I wonder if I'll ever see it again?

    syd, it was pretty cool, and the dog enjoyed it, too!

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