Posted tagged ‘space station’

Observation Log 9/9/09: ISS/Discovery overflight, with a frightening surprise

September 9, 2009

Discovery passed almost directly overhead tonight, with the ISS following 27 seconds later. Thankfully Jan was there to share it, and to witness something we’ve never seen before or probably will see again.

Just as Discovery passed straight overhead, a plume of white, faintly colorful reflections appeared right around it, and expanded for about ten seconds, dimming as it grew with the shuttle still in the middle. It was still faintly visible when it was about 1/2° across, or about the apparent size of the full moon. My immediate thought was something had gone terribly wrong. After a moment I realized we’d probably seen the Orbital Maneuvering System fire a burst of flames, during operation or perhaps testing.

I had a video camera set up to try and catch some light trails, but unfortunately it wasn’t pointed straight up. Even so, that was just stunning.

Observation Log 9/8/09: The Space Shuttle and ISS fly overhead, about 1° apart!

September 8, 2009

That was amazing. Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station just graced our skies. The shuttle had departed the ISS a few hours ago, and was visible about a degree ahead of the station as they passed from the SW to the E. Culmination was at 31°, and even through the haze both vehicles were plainly visible without binoculars.

Wow! I only wish I could have shared that with someone.

Observation Log 7/20/09: ISS & STS-127

July 20, 2009

The International Space Station, currently docked with Space Shuttle Endeavour, just made a nice pass overhead. Although I have broken clouds at the moment, I managed to get a very nice view.

In the process, I tested a valuable new technique (for me, at least) for spotting ISS passes. I have an iPhone 3GS, which has a built-in clock and a built-in compass. So, I set up several alarms for the sighting (start, highest elevation, and end), noting from Heavens Above what the compass direction would be and putting that number in each alarm. When the alarms go off, I can quickly pull up the compass and know where to look.

This might seem a bit of overkill, except that my attempt to spot the ISS about a week ago failed! I’ve never completely missed it before. The pass was low in the sky and went through skyglow from the city to the north, but I think I should have been able to see it. Anyway, this little trick should help.

If I had unlimited energy and resources, I would love to write an iPhone application that would use the GPS, compass, the timers, and the inclinometers in the iPhone to allow a user to find any sky object (satellites especially) just by pointing the phone at the sky. Words or sounds could indicate which way to adjust the pointing angle (up, down, left, right) to find what you’re looking for. Real fanatics fans like myself could even hold a laser pointer with the phone, to make spotting even easier! Hopefully someone will do that some day soon!

Observation Log 2/15/08: ISS & Shuttle Atlantis

February 15, 2008

At 6:18 tonight I got to see the Space Station and Shuttle Atlantis fly nearly straight overhead. Wow…

For fun, I tried to capture the flight on video. I learned the value of reading the manual before I need to! I couldn’t recall how to set the camera to manually focus at infinity, which is required for recording stars. I got some video, but I’ll try again. It would be cool to show readers who’ve never seen the ISS how easy it is to spot.

Observation Log 2/14/08: ISS/Shuttle flyover

February 14, 2008

211450main_iss016e028403_thum.jpgAs I wrote last week, the docked ISS and Shuttle Atlantis have an impressive list of flyovers for New England this week. Tonight was the first clear night all week, so I was hopeful. I even called my Dad at the moment the show was starting, and he saw it. I called my wife, who I was en route to pick up at the train station, and she probably saw it. But I didn’t! Even with my sunroof open, and the GPS on so I knew where true North was, I missed it somehow. I was on the highway, so I really couldn’t spare a lot of time glancing at the sky.

Friday night will be an even better flyover, higher and brighter. And I don’t have to drive anywhere!

The Space Station will make some *great* evening passes next week!

February 9, 2008