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It’s Space Station-spotting season again…!

iss_from_atlantis_thursday

We haven’t been able to see the International Space Station sailing serenely across the sky for a while – well, not without getting up at OMG! a.m! – but as January draws to a close the ISS will be perfectly placed for UK and northern hemisphere skywatchers to enjoy viewing again…

If you’ve seen the ISS in the sky before you’ll know exactly what is in store. If you haven’t, what’s all the fuss about? It’s just another satellite moving across the sky, right? WRONG! Unlike all the other satellites up there, the ISS can appear spectacularly bright, and unless you have a heart of stone it’s impossible to see it skating through the constellations, in absolute silence, without feeling awed as you realise “Wow… there are PEOPLE on that..!!!”

So, what do you do?

Well, I’m going to give you some dates and some times. That’s the hard work done. All you have to do is go outside on that date, maybe five minutes before the given time, look (roughly) to the west… and wait. Eventually, after a few minutes (but be patient, ok? These times are calculated by a fantastic website, Heavens Above, but they themselves say that they might shift n drift a little) you’ll see a “star” rising up from behind the horizon. It won’t look anything special at first, but as it climbs higher above the trees and rooftops you’ll see it start to get brighter… and brighter… and brighter! THIS is the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (“ISS”), nothing less than Mankind’s first permanently-manned outpost in space, a huge manned spacecraft orbiting high above the Earth. As you keep watching you’ll see the ISS is tracing out a graceful, curving arc, approaching a highest point almost due south before starting to drop back towards the eastern horizon again… Eventually the ISS will either – deoending on the exact circumstances of the particular pass you’re watching – start to fade and grow dimmer, or simply vanish in a  moment. But long after it’s gone you’ll still feel a very strange, peculiar thrill that you’ve just watched people drifting across the sky above your own town or city or wherevere you live. Oh trust me, you will… 🙂

Ok, here are the dates and times of the very best ISS viewing opportunities for the next 10 days – please note these times are for people viewing from where I live, Kendal, in the UK. If you live in the UK too your own times won’t be that different, not hugely different anyway, but readers in other countries your times will be totally different and you’ll need to go to the website:

Jan 21: 18.38

Jan 22: 19.03

Jan 23: 17.59

Jan 24: 18.35

Jan 25: 17.19 AND 18.52

Jan 26: 17.45 AND 19.20

Jan 27: 18.12

Now, those are just the very brightest “space station passes”, the ones you can’t miss because the ISS will just be so bright. There are others, too, less impressive, so if you want to see those too, here’s a more detailed table:

iss-jan-09

Click on the table for a bigger, easier to read version.

Good luck ISS spotting – let me know if you see anything!

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2 Responses

  1. I just saw it in Kansas. My kids enjoyed it. Thanks for posting about it.

  2. Magic Stu – thanks for that. I’ve seen it several times but never tire of watching it. I even managed to catch ISS and the Shuttle once – waaay back last year sometime -even more amazing! 😀 All we need now are a few clear nights!!!!

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