Friday, August 12, 2011

Space Station Ahoy!

So Karen and I went out to watch the International Space Station skim our southern horizon and slide beneath the Moon Friday night (this passes for "Date Night" around our house; I'll bet there's some ladies out there right now wondering how they ever let me get away). I took a lousy movie of it:

(If you're having a hard time seeing a tiny point of light in a tiny digital window, take a look at the larger version on YouTube.)

I'm actually surprised and happy with how this turned out. First, I shot it with a simple little digital point-and-shoot in video mode, nothing sophisticated. Second, I did a dry run with a different camera (a Flip) during a very short ISS pass last night that failed utterly. Third, it wasn't long after sunset and the sky was still quite bright and hazy; I wasn't sure we'd see anything. All things considered, I'm very pleased.

The ISS didn't really look much different from an airplane, and you kind of have to think about what you're looking at for the impact to hit you. There are people on that thing. In space. People in space. 200 miles high. In space. In the five minutes it took me to walk home after shooting this, they'd already traveled halfway across North America. So: impressive!

As I mentioned before, the website Heavens Above can give you a list of all the times the ISS is visible from your house for the next 10 days. I think it's worthwhile to take 5 minutes to go outside, look up, and marvel.


Jim O'Kane said...

Excellent footage! Keeping zoomed-out is definitely the way to impress the sense of speed and scale as the ISS passes over.

It's difficult to explain the feeling sometimes, watching people your own age *living in space* - - like, that's their JOB that they have - - and they're doing it right over your house, at 17,500 mph every day since just before the beginning of the 21st Century. It's a wow every single time.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Very cool. Very, VERY cool. Thank you.

"There are people on that thing," you marvel both on the soundtrack and in the text here, and on the video we can hear the marveling in your voice. I share it. But when was the last time there were NO humans in space?

A quick Google on my part doesn't answer that question for me, but now I know what I'm going to be doing in my spare time this weekend.

Thanks again, Brian. Did I say that I thought this was cool?

Brian Fies said...

Jim: Yeah, I knew zooming any further would just give me a fuzzy, shaky, low-res blob (learned that watching your attempts, no offense (really!)). Instead of trying to shoot a futile "close-up," I screwed the camera to a tripod and tried to capture how the ISS moved across the sky, using foreground objects for scale. I wish the trees had been shorter; I scouted that park the night before and knew I'd have a good view of the Moon, but thought the station's path would be a little higher. On the other hand, winking in and out of the leaves is visually interesting.

Your comment about "your own age" took me aback. It still startles me a little when people like doctors, presidents and, yes, astronauts are my age or younger. Intellectually, I realize this will be an increasingly common event; emotionally, I don't trust those punk kids to do anything right.

Sherwood, thanks. Jim would probably know the answer to your question off the top of his head. I'm not sure. There was a gap between Mir (last inhabited in 1998)and the ISS, which Wikipedia tells me has been "continuously staffed since 2 November 2000." So I'd guess the answer to your question is 1 November 2000.

Cool indeed.

Namowal said...

Awesome stuff!
I missed it because I was on the road during the critical time, so it was nice to see your video.

sligo said...

people in space. so, so cool.

some day twenty years from now, the gods willing, it'll be us...maybe a Carnival space cruise.

we need to start saving pennies.

David A said...

Kind of late to the conversation, but I've been using an app called GoAtlantis for the iPad to see it. You hold the iPad up to the sky as it's passing over, and it shows you exactly where it is. Pretty cool, especially on clear nights when it's directly overhead.