space station spotting

Sep 13, 2013

A few weeks ago, at an al fresco dinner in Italy, a friend became preoccupied with his smartphone. When we asked what he was doing, he replied that he was waiting for a call from the International Space Station.  He certainly got our attention.

In fact he was watching an app he had downloaded – and the app would let him know when the station became visible at his present location. Soon he fixed his eyes on the horizon, and within seconds he pointed and we all looked up. It was not difficult to see the station. It appeared as a large, fast -moving star that within two minutes had passed overhead and moved out of sight.

Our friend told us that the station was travelling at more than 2500 km and, because it’s orbit is a few hundred kilometres above earth, was over Spain when we first saw it. 

Last night I downloaded the app and noticed that the ISS was to pass a couple of hundred kilometres south of Invercargill at a height above the horizon of 23 degrees. It was a clear night in Cheviot so I went out for a look. Sure enough, at 8.05pm the station was visible for at least a minute before passing into cloud above the Eastern horizon.

There are a number of websites and apps with info about the station, and it is not difficult to track with the guides provided.



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