October 2 – 15, 2017
Mount Washington — The International Space Station, a research satellite that orbits planet Earth with astronaut scientists aboard, appears as a brilliant star-like object moving silently and rather quickly across the sky, best seen at dawn or dusk. Recently, while looking up at twilight to see bright Saturn in the southwest, the ISS came into view in the west-southwest and, climbing swiftly, arced to the northwest and disappeared; the whole spectacle concluded in three minutes. The next day the shining light rose out of the trees to the southwest and traced a steep arc to the northeast horizon; it was visible for five minutes.
Every day this week, you can spot the ISS by following the directions in the chart provided for locations within 50 miles of nearby Monterey – there was no listing for Great Barrington. For all locations, see “Opportunities to Participate” at the conclusion of this article.
When scanning the chart, notice especially the days when the space station is highest above the horizon and is visible for the longest period of time. When estimating degrees above the horizon, know that a fist extended at arm’s length approximately 10 degrees.
Last week the station was visible higher in the sky. For choices over time, consider signing up directly from NASA for notification of favorable visibility. I was alerted the morning of each of the evening sightings I described.
The ISS is usually brighter than planet Venus, making it the third brightest object in the sky, following the sun and moon. According to NASA’s formative document “International Space Station Basics,” the station orbits between 230 and 286 miles above Earth. NASA explains that: “The space station is visible because it reflects the light of the Sun – the same reason we can see the Moon. However, unlike the Moon, the space station isn’t bright enough to see during the day. It can only be seen when it is dawn or dusk at your location. As such, it can range from one sighting opportunity a month to several a week, since it has to be both dark where you are, and the space station has to happen to be going overhead.”
The following statement by astronaut Peggy Whitson, Ph.D., was offered upon concluding her most recent space mission: “I will miss seeing and working within this awe-inspiring creation that we, as a people, have constructed here in space, traveling at 17,500 mph. I still can’t believe the incredible level of detail that was required to imagine this place, let alone to build it!”
Enter the International Space Station and look out its windows for four minutes through the “From Above” production with astronaut-photographer Don Pettit, Ph.D. Then, over time, refer to “Resources” and “Opportunities to Participate,” below, to learn more about this awe-inspiring creation.
International Space Station Basics – www.nasa.gov/pdf/179225main_ISS_Poster_Back.pdf
SmugMug Films: FROM ABOVE – Astronaut Photography with Don Pettit, 4 minutes, 24 seconds – https://news.smugmug.com/smugmug-films-earth-from-above-with-astronaut-don-pettit-9035d9785adc
Walking on Air photographed from the ISS by Don Pettit, video assembled by NASA ground – https://youtu.be/hWz5ltE_I4c
Tour of ISS by an astronaut, 55minutes, 33 seconds – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afBm0Dpfj_k&feature=youtu.be
Opportunities to Participate
View the International Space Station in your locale – https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/
Sign up for email or text notices – https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/signup.cfm
Within 50 miles of Salisbury, Connecticut – https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/view.cfm?country=United_States®ion=Connecticut&city=Salisbury#.WDUJrUMWbOo