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Have You Spotted The International Space Station?  
User currently offlineRootsAir From Costa Rica, joined Feb 2005, 4186 posts, RR: 40
Posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3764 times:

Hi folks

Yesterday my brother told me about the ISS website where one can see the riuting of the ISS and the spotting opportunities.
http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/tracking/index.html

I would like to know if you have had the opportunity to spot it. Is it really conspicuous? How big is it and can you easily tell its ISS flying over you?
Any experiences would be welcome
Regards
BM  airplane  wave 


A man without the knowledge of his past history,culture and origins is like a tree without roots
19 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAnt72LBA From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 414 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3752 times:

It's a few years since I last looked for the space station; probably 2003 when I lived in Leeds - very slightly less cloudy than Manchester where I am now! As I recall it was pretty obvious, similar to Venus but (obviously) much faster moving across the sky. Can remember standing on the balcony of the flat where I lived at the time speaking to my dad in Hull (about fifty miles east) and both being able to watch the ISS.

User currently offlineZANL188 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 3519 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3747 times:
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Quoting RootsAir (Thread starter):
I would like to know if you have had the opportunity to spot it.

yes, many times in fact

Quoting RootsAir (Thread starter):
Is it really conspicuous?

if you see it you will have no doubt what it is...

Quoting RootsAir (Thread starter):
How big is it and can you easily tell its ISS flying over you?

Smaller than Venus but just as bright. It will appear as a very bright star but you'll know it's not a star because it's moving relative to the background stars. The lack of strobes and colored navigation lights will readily distinguish it from an aircraft.
As the pass goes on you will see it vary in brightness as the geometry changes and eventually you will see it wink out as it passes into Earths shadow.

If you use a good site (I recommend www.heavens-above.com, nasa doesn't update their pass predictions as often as they should) you'll know where in the sky to look and for how long. Go out a little early so your eyes can get dark adapted. Don't be impatient as ISS probably won't become visible at the exact moment predicted and if it does you probably won't be looking in exactly the right spot.



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User currently offlineSLCPilot From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 583 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3747 times:

I've seen it many, many times. One of the most memorable times was during the last shuttle mission. I was in Oklahoma with my girlfriend, and on a four way phone call. All four of us saw the shuttle following the station! My father in Colorado Springs, my friend and his wife in Oklahoma City, and another friend in Kansas City all were looking at it at the same time!

Here is a much better site for looking at satellites. You can even see Iridium flares during the day! At night they will even cast shadows!


Heavens-above.com

Some advanced photographers have even been able to image the station recently using equipment available to the consumer.

If you want to see something even more spectacular, look for a shuttle re-entry! I was able to see one re-enter at night over central Texas from 10,000' and it was amazing! The ground track was actually pretty close to that of Columbia a few years later. Here is a descpription of that event......

PIREP: Flaming trails across the sky Options

Cheers!

SLCPilot



I don't like to be fueled by anger, I don't like to be fooled by lust...
User currently offlineZANL188 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 3519 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3743 times:
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Quoting SLCPilot (Reply 3):
If you want to see something even more spectacular, look for a shuttle re-entry! I was able to see one re-enter at night over central Texas from 10,000' and it was amazing! The ground track was actually pretty close to that of Columbia a few years later. Here is a descpription of that event......

Sadly unless you are in South or Central America (or on a ship) the odds of seeing a shuttle reentry are practically nil. Columbia debris raining down on Texas & Louisiana changed all that for good - no more reentries over densely populated areas....



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User currently offlineSLCPilot From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 583 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3737 times:

Quoting ZANL188 (Reply 4):
no more reentries over densely populated areas....

Hmmm, are you sure or do you have an online source? That would seem to cut down the chances of coming back to California or Florida by quite a bit. With the last shuttle mission, it came back to EDW, and much of the California coast is pretty densly populated. To avoid all re-entries over the lower 48 would suprise me.

Thorny? Are you there?

Cheers!

SLCPilot



I don't like to be fueled by anger, I don't like to be fooled by lust...
User currently offlineZANL188 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 3519 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 3710 times:
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Quoting SLCPilot (Reply 5):
Hmmm, are you sure

Yep - The last mission reentered over the Pacific, it did not reenter over a populated area. All reentries now will be on the ascending node over central and south america.



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User currently offlineSLCPilot From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 583 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 3704 times:

Quoting ZANL188 (Reply 6):
Yep - The last mission reentered over the Pacific, it did not reenter over a populated area. All reentries now will be on the ascending node over central and south america.

Good enough for me. Looking at your profile, you seem to track the US space program.

If you read this and happen to live in Central America, it's worth the effort to see.

Cheers,

SLCPilot






PS> thread drift, but here instead of a PM since others may be curious. ZANL188, where does this come from? My guess, a Zantrop (sp?) cargo L-188. Am I close? Also, who's in the Jimmy Carter picture, Amy? And why is it significant? Did you take it?



I don't like to be fueled by anger, I don't like to be fooled by lust...
User currently offlineZANL188 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 3519 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 3698 times:
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Quoting SLCPilot (Reply 7):
ZANL188, where does this come from? My guess, a Zantrop (sp?) cargo L-188. Am I close?

Ding!! Ding!! Ding!! We have a winner!! L-188 = probably one of the neatest, and most misunderstood, airliners around from the early turbine years. I had the pleasure of working with the Zantop L188s and crews, even got a jumpseat ride once...

Quoting SLCPilot (Reply 7):
Also, who's in the Jimmy Carter picture, Amy? And why is it significant?

Jimmy, the Mrs, and Amy. Why significant? read this:

RE: VC-137 Right-Side Airstair? (by Uscgc130 May 30 2007 in Military Aviation & Space Flight)



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User currently offlineSLCPilot From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 583 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 3686 times:

Quoting ZANL188 (Reply 8):
L-188 = probably one of the neatest, and most misunderstood,

Ok, I'll accept that. Some early planes seem to do what no replacement can do today. Fill in the blanks with Convair, DA-20 or the like.

There is one thing that got my attention though. While all of Wiki must be taken with a HUGE grain of salt, there was this teaser.....

"A total of 144 L-188s were built, 57 of which have been destroyed in accidents, according to the Aviation Safety Network[1]. The most recent Electra accident was in July 2003."

That doesn't sound like too good of a record. P-3's probably up the safety record, and there is (was) at least one Chinese fighter pilot that will attest to the strength of the airframe.

Cheers!

SLCPilot (looking for the shuttle tonight....still on topic)



I don't like to be fueled by anger, I don't like to be fooled by lust...
User currently offlineZANL188 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 3519 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3680 times:
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Quoting SLCPilot (Reply 9):
"A total of 144 L-188s were built, 57 of which have been destroyed in accidents, according to the Aviation Safety Network[1]. The most recent Electra accident was in July 2003."

I bet that's hull loses not fatal accidents... I don't know though I didn't research it....

Quoting SLCPilot (Reply 9):
(looking for the shuttle tonight....still on topic)

If you are in SLC tonight here are the visible passes expected for the next couple of days. Sorry you'll need to convert to local time there, the times you see here are all Eastern Daylight Time: (I boldfaced the pass I'd go look for)

STSORBIT PLUS Data Output to STSPLUS.LOG, Data = 19

Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Latitude: 40.7564 N
Longitude: -111.8905 W
Elevation: 1288 meters
Prepared: 18 AUG 2007 17:48:04 EDT

Satellite Name: ISS Space Station
Catalog Number: 25544 98067A
Pass Type: Visible, MinAlt = 5 deg, MinHor = 3 deg
TLE Filename: CATALOG.TXT

-----------AOS----------- --MAX VISIBILITY-- ------LOS------
# EDT Date & Time Azm EDT Time Alt Azm EDT Time Azm Duration
1 18 AUG 07 20:35:10 300.4 20:39:13 10 356.3 20:43:15 52.0 0:08:05
VIS: 20:36:10 308.8 20:39:12 10 356.0 20:42:15 43.5 0:06:05
2 18 AUG 07 22:10:56 313.6 22:15:17 14 16.4 22:19:37 79.1 0:08:41
VIS: 22:11:51 320.0 22:15:17 14 16.3 22:18:45 73.0 0:06:54
3 18 AUG 07 23:45:55 307.8 23:50:50 66 33.7 23:55:41 121.5 0:09:46
VIS: 23:46:41 308.7 23:50:49 66 33.4 23:51:32 98.3 0:04:51
4 19 AUG 07 01:21:32 285.5 01:25:33 11 230.0 01:29:31 174.6 0:07:59
VIS: 01:22:29 278.0 01:22:53 4 273.9 01:22:53 273.9 0:00:24
5 19 AUG 07 20:58:18 309.7 21:02:23 10 6.2 21:06:27 62.7 0:08:09
VIS: 20:59:19 318.1 21:02:23 10 6.2 21:05:29 54.6 0:06:10
6 19 AUG 07 22:33:33 312.6 22:38:16 25 25.9 22:42:55 98.8 0:09:22
VIS: 22:34:23 316.4 22:38:16 25 26.1 22:41:53 93.7 0:07:30
7 20 AUG 07 00:08:38 299.5 00:13:24 35 222.7 00:18:08 145.7 0:09:30
VIS: 00:09:25 297.2 00:13:15 34 231.0 00:13:15 231.0 0:03:50



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User currently offlineJhooper From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 6204 posts, RR: 12
Reply 11, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3674 times:

Yes, one time I spotted the International Space Station over College Station, Texas when I was in school, shortly after the shuttle had undocked in 2002. I went behind the airport close to the Texas A&M Astronomy class spotting area. Using the Heavens-above.com site, I determined where to look. At the time of optimal spotting, an A&M cop pulled behind me on the road and asked what I was doing. I pointed up at the sky and told him I was looking at the space shuttle and ISS (which you could see two moving "stars" overhead). The cop, not even looking at what I was pointing at, just shined his bright light in my face to see if I was drunk (destroying any night vision I had) and then told me to get lost. I was pissed.

[Edited 2007-08-19 00:08:18]


Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
User currently offlineThorny From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3660 times:

Quoting RootsAir (Thread starter):
I would like to know if you have had the opportunity to spot it. Is it really conspicuous? How big is it and can you easily tell its ISS flying over you?

It depends very much on the details. I've seen the Space Station and the Space Shuttle fly over many times, most recently the Station followed by Atlantis in June. Sometimes they were brilliant, brighter than Venus, sometimes they were "only" as bright as an ordinary bright star like Altair or Rigel.

Factors that make a difference:
- Whether you are between the Sun and the Station (or Shuttle) or looking at the "shadow" side of the Station

- How soon after sunset or before sunrise the flyover occurs (brighter skies make it harder to see)

- How high up in the sky the Station is from your perspective (closer to horizon = more murk in the sky = dimmer)

- Whether it is cloudy or not (even if partly cloudy, you might still see the Station fly in and out of clouds.)

If you catch a flyover where to see it you have your back to where the sun set (or will rise), odds are the Station will appear spectacularly bright. You'll be looking at a full-on Station illuminated by the sun. These are rarer than other sightings, because to be "east" of you, the Station will be closer to orbital sunset than if you were looking to the west. So these sightings are usually brighter, but don't last as long. You'll see a bright Station sail by and then quickly fade and disappear as the Station enters sunset in orbit.

There are also hybrids, where the Station comes rising out of the western sky and isn't all that bright, but gets brighter as it approaches the zenith and then becomes dazzling as you start to see it from the "sunlit" side. Then it fades and disappears. These are also rare because you have to be directly under the Station's flight path.

You can get an idea of what kind of pass you'll get by looking at the NASA sightings table.

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/index.html

If the length of the appearance is only a minute or less and the maximum elevation is only 10-15 degrees, it probably won't be that bright. But it is still exciting to see.

Quoting ZANL188 (Reply 4):
Sadly unless you are in South or Central America (or on a ship) the odds of seeing a shuttle reentry are practically nil. Columbia debris raining down on Texas & Louisiana changed all that for good - no more reentries over densely populated areas....

Not quite, STS-125 is still nominally scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center. That's the last Hubble Servicing Mission next August. A landing at KSC on that mission will overfly Texas again (farther south than STS-107, however.)


User currently onlineKPDX From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 2741 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3658 times:

I go to the NASA link you posted, and watch the ISS all the time.  Smile Cool stuff.


View my aviation videos on Youtube by searching for zildjiandrummr12
User currently offlineZANL188 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 3519 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3657 times:
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Quoting Thorny (Reply 12):
A landing at KSC on that mission will overfly Texas again (farther south than STS-107, however.)

The cross range capability could be used and the track in that case would be even further south.



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User currently offlineThorny From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (7 years 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 3642 times:

Quoting ZANL188 (Reply 14):
The cross range capability could be used and the track in that case would be even further south.

Yep, but still over Texas, Here's a description of the groundtracks for STS-87 (also 28.5 deg inclination) back in 1997...

"Two opportunities exist for a Kennedy Space Center.landing on Friday. The first calls for firing the Orbital Maneuvering System engines on orbit 251 at 5:21 a.m. CST followed by a landing on runway 33 at 6:20 a.m. This entry path will take Columbia across northern Mexico and southern Texas, the northern Gulf of Mexico and north central Florida.

The second landing opportunity Friday has deorbit ignition at 6:56 a.m. with landing at 7:55 a.m. Central time. Columbias grountrack on this approach crosses the Texas Big Bend and central Texas, southern Louisiana and New Orleans, and completing its track to Florida over the northern Gulf of Mexico just south of the coast line."


User currently offlineMadameConcorde From San Marino, joined Feb 2007, 10893 posts, RR: 37
Reply 16, posted (7 years 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 3570 times:

I try to see the ISS as much as I can. At times I have been lucky, at other times I have been out of luck. It all depends on the weather. I look from up on the hills of Monte Carlo to avoid the city lights as much as possible. I have had some good surprises.

There will be a 4 minutes pass and then a one minute pass this evening. I hope to catch them if not too many clouds.

ISS Sun Aug 19/09:00 PM 4 54 30 above NW 12 above ESE
ISS Sun Aug 19/10:34 PM 1 16 10 above W 16 above WSW

Wish me good luck as I would love to see both crafts. I really want to see them!
 Smile

Quoting Thorny (Reply 12):

- Whether it is cloudy or not (even if partly cloudy, you might still see the Station fly in and out of clouds.)



There was a better way to fly it was called Concorde
User currently offlineMadameConcorde From San Marino, joined Feb 2007, 10893 posts, RR: 37
Reply 17, posted (7 years 1 week 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 3458 times:

I saw them very clearly tonight about 9.20 PM my time. Sky was dark. They came from the West going toward South East fading into the sea. A really beautiful pass over Monte Carlo.

ISS came first, followed by Shuttle.
I could see the solar panels really well, the ship was very bright. No flares. Shuttle was going after it. Clear too, but smaller.

I could see the two ships moving in the sky at steady slow speed one after the other. They looked fairly close but yet very distant in reality...

I said hello to them all, I doubt they could hear me.:lol

Next pass over MC is in 2 days, should be 3 minutes but there will be the fireworks competition at the same time so I doubt I will see them...

Shuttle will be very far by then, maybe even on the ground. Let us wish them the best! Big grin



There was a better way to fly it was called Concorde
User currently offlinePrebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 6429 posts, RR: 54
Reply 18, posted (7 years 9 hours ago) and read 3307 times:

Yes, last time on 5th August this year. I was on a long and slow journey on a ski lift in Switzerland just as it had become completely dark night. It was a special occasion with specially lighted patches of the forest below where angels were singing like angles are supposed to sing.

Venus was very bright, low on the western horizon, and high up in the Alps the Milky Way was brighter than I had ever seen before. Then the ISS turned up close to Venus and passed us practically overhead. Venus, Milky Way, ISS, and angles singing in light show, that was almost too much. But that tour was also advertised as a trip to Paradise.

Many years ago I also watched the Space Shuttle catching up on the ISS. Roughly one day after launch the somewhat dimmer Shuttle trailed some four inches behind the ISS. I went to the middle of a large graveyard to get to a decently dark spotting position for that occasion. It was here in Denmark where the ISS never comes higher than 35 degrees over the southern horizon, so it was a lot dimmer than overhead in Switzerland.

I also saw the Russian space station MIR several times, last time in Munich, Germany on 12th August 1999. It was extremely bright because it was getting low. Re-entry happened not too long time later.

Back in time of the Cold War in the 70'es and 80'es it was hard to look at a clear, dark sky after sunset without seeing one of the very large US or Soviet photo or radar spy satellites which were almost as bright as the ISS since they travelled much lower. They were easily distinguished from space stations because those spy satellites always travelled north-south or visa versa, and because of the low altitude they appeared to travel much faster. The space stations and the Shuttle always travel from west to east, at least when we see them from northern latitudes such as central and northern Europe. At the Equator they travel more like south-east or north-east.



Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs, Preben Norholm
User currently offlineKDTWFlyer From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 828 posts, RR: 1
Reply 19, posted (6 years 11 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 3164 times:

Well this is what it looks like... in this case the shuttle is trailing the ISS.




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