The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

See the International Space Station This Week

A lot of people don’t know you can see satellites with the naked eye. The International Space Station (ISS) is very large and has huge solar panels. Not only can you see it, the ISS is sometimes one of the brightest objects in the sky.  There are several good passes coming up this week for people in North America.  The brightest passes will rival the planet Venus in brightness.
iss-pleiades
If you want to take a picture of it, just point your camera in the general direction and leave the shutter open for 20 seconds or so. The satellite will show up as a streak on your picture like this one I took of the ISS (the second fainter streak to the left is the Space Shuttle, click to embiggen) last year.

You can find information on the passes at Spaceweather.com or go to the more extensive Heavens-Above.com.  The Spaceweather.com site is easier for beginners, but you get more information at Heavens-Above.  You may notice that they provide information on the infamous ISS toolbag which was lost during the last mission. You can see it, but probably need a pair of binoculars to pick it out.  I haven’t seen it yet, but may give it a shot this week.

Once you have mastered finding the ISS, try some of the fainter satellites on the list.  Satellite hunting is fun and doesn’t even require a telescope.  Dozens of satellites are visible to the naked eye!

February 2, 2009 - Posted by | Observing

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