you can see space from here

space station in orbit

One of the really cool things about living in Saint John is that we are on the flight path of the International Space Station. On Friday night, we headed outdoors just before 6 p.m. and saw the ISS orbiting right over our back yard, tracing a path across the sky from the northwest to the southeast. I last saw the space station earlier this year, just after the space shuttle had undocked and before it returned to earth, and it was incredible to watch, because you could see the shuttle chasing the space station across the sky.

Of course what you see (unless you have a powerful telescope) is not the space station itself but the bright reflection of the sun’s light on its metal exterior. And there’s no question of mistaking it for anything else — it travels much faster than an airplane across the sky, tracing a steady straight line from one horizon to another.

You need to have a clear sky (and as wide a view as possible) in order to see the ISS pass over. And although it circles the earth several times a day, you can only see it from the ground in the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset. That’s because the earth needs to be in shadow (the sky is dark) and the space station needs to be in sunlight (otherwise it won’t be lit up). As well, its path has to be at least 15 degrees above the horizon; if it barely clears the horizon, there is too much haze and atmospheric dust for it to be visible.

If you would like to see the space station fly by for yourself, check the NASA’s sightings page. It’s a truly magical experience.

Photo taken on November 12, 2010


6 thoughts on “you can see space from here

    • I rarely saw the sky when I was living in Ontario, but now we can see it whenever we go outdoors on a clear night. On those winter nighttime dog runs, looking up and seeing my old friend Orion makes the cold worthwhile!

  1. All hail the International Space Station! πŸ™‚

    My hubby thinks it’s hilarious that my cell phone goes off five minutes before it’s due to pass over. I set it up using the info here:

    If and when Discovery launches Nov 30 or early December, it will be a night launch. Apparently we may be able to see part of its ascent. I’m looking into it like the good space geek I am. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for coming by to visit my blog, KJ! I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to find someone else who’s as interested in space stuff as I am. Female geeks rule!

      Or maybe I’m just a baby geek. I didn’t know that the shuttle’s path will be visible from here. That would be so cool! I will stay tuned to your tweets for more info on that.

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