Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Space Patrol Alert!

Attention West Coast Space Rangers! This Friday, August 12, shortly after 8:30 p.m., the International Space Station will be flying over your town!

Big whoop?

The ISS is always flying over somebody's town, and can cover a given area several times per week. In fact, this week and next offer my part of the planet several opportunities to see the ISS just before dawn or after dusk, when the sky is darkish and the station reflects the light of the Sun just over the horizon.

What makes this apparition special enough to trigger the Space Patrol Orange Alert is that the ISS will be passing very close to the Moon, which'll make it easy to find and could give someone a nice photo op. In fact, it looks to me like observers along a line running from Watsonville (Calif.) through Turlock to approximately Battle Mountain (Nevada) have a good chance to catch the station flying across the face of the Moon, which would be very cool indeed.

The website Heavens Above can provide times and sky charts for your area. The map at the top of this post is for San Francisco, and shows the ISS skimming just under the Moon. Tell the site where you live--either by entering latitude and longitude, searching for your city's name, or pinpointing it on a map (if you use the map, don't forget to also specify your Time Zone)--then pick "10 Day Predictions for: ISS," and it'll provide a list of all your viewing opportunities. This one is for 12 Aug starting around (depending on your location) 20:33.

So, Space Rangers stationed in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and northern Mexico: go outside this Friday night around 8:30 and watch the southern skies to the right of the Moon. The ISS should look like a pretty bright star moving at a fair clip from right to left. The farther south you're located, the higher in the sky it'll appear. You don't need a telescope, although some people have seen the station's distinctive H-shape through binoculars. If you haven't spotted anything by 8:40, you missed it. Better luck next time!

Don't forget to report your findings to Cap Crater at Space Command, and ad astra per aspera!

Astrophotographer Theirry Legault took this shot of the ISS transiting the Moon last December. Think you can do better? Give it a try!


sligo said...

awesome! really!

Namowal said...

I'll be on the lookout.