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January 22nd, 2008, 10:07 AM #1Fun Diversion - Spot Int'l Space Station flyovers
My grandfather was an astronomer, so was his dad and his dad before him. They made hand-polished lenses for telescopes, a laborious process that took years of detailed work to produce a single lens. There's a university in the USA where my ancestors donated money, computers, tracking technology and even one of the family lenses to build an astronomical observatory, named for my family, for studies by the college students there.
So the night sky, and its many wonders, run in my blood.
Wanted to share a little fun with you all. There's a cool website that lists visible sky sighting opportunities for your specfic location. Once in a while, I drag my wife and kids outside to view the International Space Station (ISS) as it flies over. When I talk to people, most seem to not be aware that it's easily visible in the clear night sky - so I thought I'd share.
Enter your location and you'll get a list looking out the next 2-3 weeks of things you'll be able to see, namely the ISS, but sometimes other weirder things too. If there's nothing but ISS to see, it'll just list the ISS sightings.
The ISS flyovers are short lived (cause it's orbiting at very high speed), 1-5 minutes long and the station appears to be about the color (reflecting sunlight), size and brightness as the brightest star you can normally see in the night sky. Since it takes 1-5 minutes to traverse the sky, you can watch it moving for sure.
The chart at the site will show you how long the viewing duration will be, where it first appears (direction on the horizon it comes from) and where it disappears (departing towards the horizon) and how high overhead it'll pass. 90 degress is straight overhead and 0 degrees is the horizon. So the higher the max elevation, the more overhead it'll be - and the easier it'll be to see - less atmosphere to look through since you're looking straight through the gases of our atmosphere, less ground lighting interference, fewer tree and building blockages, etc.
Pick out a max elevation opportunity that's above ~40 degress for best viewing opportunities (above 60 degrees and it'll be very obviously overhead). And no worries, the ISS covers a serpentine path across the globe's surface, so if you don't like the max elevation chance you get this week (or it's a cloudy night or cloudy early morning), it'll be coming back again soon at varying angles and durations.
The site only shows 2-3 weeks, so I can't choose Las Vegas now to see if there's a fly over when we're all there for Affiliate Summit. Would be fun to see it then if my eyes aren't too blurry. :-)
January 22nd, 2008, 10:24 AM #2
Way cool, thanks Donuts.
Just before Christmas I picked up an old telescope at an auction.
Finally got around to checking it out and it works so I'll be sure to take a look.
4 ISS viewing times in the next few weeks so I can get the kids out with me and they can watch while I try and catch it with the scope too.================================================================
Been away, now I'm back. Not as much, but I'm back & starting from scratch. Where I was, was fantastic. Where I am now, less so. Things have changed, become harder. So have I. Game ON!!!
January 22nd, 2008, 11:58 AM #3
Thanks, Donuts. Having a personal interest in astronomy I find that site fascinating. Here in Baltimore we are plagued with light pollution, but at our beach place I will definitely be looking skyward. I just checked and, surprisingly, some of the flyovers there are quite high in the sky (50 and 58 degrees) so they should look pretty impressive.
As an aside... Many years ago I was teaching high school earth & space science. For continuing ed credits I signed up for a graduate astronomy course at a local university. There were only five of us enrolled (the prof electing to work for 50% pay in lieu of canceling the class), so instead of a "normal" class he set it up as a seminar. The result was that instead of just attending lectures in the University Planetarium - he actually taught us how to operate the planetarium. We each got to plan and present a planetarium sky-talk. That, indeed, was a fascinating experience - one that few people will ever have.
So, yeah, I'm up for a bit of sky-watching for an ISS flyover in Vegas - if the timing is right.
January 22nd, 2008, 12:01 PM #4
Very cool! Thanks D!
My younger daughter is studying astronomy in science now. This will be perfect for her and her class.
January 22nd, 2008, 12:25 PM #5
January 22nd, 2008, 01:56 PM #6Originally Posted by popdawg
The ISS is moving very fast, so it'll be hard to track through the average telescope, especially if your telescope has no viewfinder (a secondary, spotting scope).
And just for clarity for others, I do want to say a telescope isn't needed at all - but will sure add some fun.
January 22nd, 2008, 02:00 PM #7Originally Posted by Beachy
Originally Posted by Beachy
Originally Posted by Beachy
January 22nd, 2008, 02:01 PM #8Originally Posted by Rexanne
January 22nd, 2008, 02:18 PM #9
Little side note to my post...
We stand out in the yard and sometimes my neighbors have wondered what's up and come over... so I was explaining to this kid what the ISS is and what he was seeing, he was cool freaked that people were on board the thing...
He asked how high up it was and I told him it's about 200-215 miles, roughly the same as the distance from Orlando to Miami.
He asked how fast it was going, so I told him nearly 20,000 miles per hour (it's ~17,250 mph and varies as they fire rockets and adjust the ISS orbit).
I told him at that speed, if we were driving to Miami, we'd get there in about 45 seconds.
I also told him it circles the earth a little more than 15 times each day.
Then he asked if we could see the people that were on it... I said if we looked close enough that we could (I was thinking telescope)... he stared at it for a minute, then asked me... "are they Mexican? I think I can see them"
My 17 year old son and I laughed and laughed and laughed... we tried not to, but couldn't stop. The wonder of a child's thoughts are so pure... they were so funny. We were laughing at how stuffy our fact-filled adult world is and how much more wonderful a child's world can be. What a good time!
Anyhow, I started off the whole thing by telling the kid that it was the International Space Station... maybe that's where Mexico came into play in his mind.
So Beachy, we may have to drink a Margarita out in Vegas when we go sky watching (or you can do that at the beach too), as an ode to our Mexican friends hurtling through space.
January 22nd, 2008, 02:40 PM #10Originally Posted by Donuts
At our beach place I have an older Meade "80mm cat" telescope w/clock drive. Over the last 10 years we have used it only a few times (for craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, the Galilean moons of Jupiter, and objects like that). But, for most sky gazing I tend to pick up an old 7x50 binocular that I've owned for over 40 years. Mrs. Beachy just got me a new binocular for Christmas that is a lot smaller and easier to transport, which now might end up in the suitcase for Vegas.
The problem with the higher magnification of a telescope is that the "field of view" is very narrow. Even at 25 power (25 x magnification), the area of the sky that you will see is so small that the ISS will zoom in and out of view in a second or two. Then you will end up chasing it across the sky which is not quite as easy as it seems.
So for viewing the ISS I recommend either naked eye viewing or using a pair of binoculars for a bit of a closer view.
January 22nd, 2008, 03:09 PM #11Originally Posted by Donuts
But, here's a side note to your side note - about the wonderment of youngsters when is comes to things truly out of this world.
A little over three years ago I was able to arrange an opportunity for 24 of our middle schoolers to talk "live" with a crew aboard the ISS. This extraordinary event was hosted at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore and was a live video-teleconference between the Center and the Space Station. Our kids each had a chance to ask a question that they had "wondered about." The questions were all pre-written and approved by NASA, but the asking and answering were done live. It was an amazing event covered, of course, by local TV and broadcast live on NASA TV.
I have a long story that goes along with that - because that was the second time I had a group of kids with the unique opportunity to experience something truly out-of-this-world. Here is a link to a brief story and some photos of the latest event: http://www.fsk.org/showcase/FSK-MDSCI/
Both events that I had the chance to develop were an incredible experience for me as well as the students. It is not every day that our kids get to reach for the stars - and actually make contact.
January 22nd, 2008, 03:10 PM #12
Beachy, sounds like you should make an affiliate page about buying the right equipment to see the Space Station fly over. :-)
Ain't being an affiliate wonderful!!!
January 22nd, 2008, 05:20 PM #13Originally Posted by Beachy
January 31st, 2008, 03:20 PM #14
We had a really great flyover a few days ago, great visibility, nearly overhead, super bright and it lasted about 4 minutes. I was in the Wendy's drive-through line with my son and we got out of my car and checked it out. People were asking what we were looking at and they jumped out of their cars with us and checked it out with us.
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