Spot the Station
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  1. #1
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Spot the Station

    I've been nerding out over this lately: Spot the Station enables you to find out when the Space Station is flying over your location so you can check it out.

    I get texts about 12hrs in advance of the passes near sunrise, but you can visit the website and see which other times/dates/coordinates it will appear.

    Wasn't expecting it to be so easily spotted with the naked eye, and it's really bright! I can just look out a window upstairs and watch as it tracks across the sky, exactly as predicted.

    Just a few minutes ago, I watched it go across the sky, booking along at 17,500 mph (looks like a fast-moving plane without the blinking light.) As it started its "descent," noticed a fainter, but also steady-tracking, non-blinking light going in a different direction. Guessing it was another satellite, but no idea which one. Checked another list, but it didn't match up.

    In any case, we don't get to see much of the sky in a crowded city area, so I'm really thrilled for a "space event" that's so predictable and easy to observe. So what if I'm standing outside at the end of the driveway with my hair in a towel, looking straight up- the neighbors probably think we're a little nuts to begin with.

  2. #2
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    Newtonian...

  3. #3
    Russian Troll Farmer
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    The Heavens Above app does the same, except it will also tell you when many other bright satellites will visibly pass overhead; all you need to do is set what minimum magnitude of brightness you wish (setting it pretty high for urban areas), and it will give you a 10 minute warning for any pass overhead (or withing whatever azimuth limits you wish).
    "L'enfer, c'est les autres"

  4. #4
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    I checked the Heavens website but have yet to figure it out. Truly curious about the second satellite I saw. Didn't think I could see them so easily without a telescope or anything.

  5. #5
    feelin' Freddie Mercury
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    Did this already a few years back, though it was a local TV news broadcast that tipped me off as to the where and when.

    The ISS looked a big, bright, very fast-moving elongated white dot... like a plane at high altitude, pretty much, but moving one hell of a lot faster.

    It must've gone from horizon to horizon in under about twenty seconds or so from where I was, don't remember exactly. It was definitely a very cool thing to see.
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  6. #6
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    In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
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  7. #7
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    Just went outside to check on the 10:14, but it's too cloudy. By the time I got inside, it was over Nova Scotia.

    It's 10:25 and according to the live tracker, it's now halfway to Europe.

    It'll be by again before midnight though!

  8. #8
    Russian Troll Farmer
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    Yeah, but by midnight it will be behind the earth's shadow. You can only see the station within less than 2 hours of sunset or sunrise.

    BTW, with a pair of powerful binoculars, you can actually see the layout of the station.
    "L'enfer, c'est les autres"

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SystemShock View Post
    The ISS looked a big, bright, very fast-moving elongated white dot... like a plane at high altitude, pretty much, but moving one hell of a lot faster.

    It must've gone from horizon to horizon in under about twenty seconds or so from where I was, don't remember exactly. It was definitely a very cool thing to see.
    .
    One can only imagine the number of people who spot the station and assume it's a plane. Damn the Wright Brothers!!

    Quote Originally Posted by No Time Toulouse View Post
    Yeah, but by midnight it will be behind the earth's shadow. You can only see the station within less than 2 hours of sunset or sunrise.

    BTW, with a pair of powerful binoculars, you can actually see the layout of the station.
    A couple years ago I introduced a Bud of mine to photography. At the time, I only had a 30X (optical) Point and Shoot ( but with manual mode). He decided to up the ante with an updated (more optical zoom along with manual) camera.

    Knowing when and where and knowing his porch would offer an almost unobstructed view of the entire transit, we set up (handheld). His shot blew mine out of the water (slight blur but an overexposed clear view of solar panels and ISS structure). He really pizz'd me off.

  10. #10
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Just watched it again, beautiful night. Looked like a medium-bright star, but as usual, was bookin' along at a steady clip. Rose out of the WSW and swept across the sky into the NE.

    Love thinking about how it's just above the drag of the atmosphere and how humans are in there for months at a time, making lazy, endless orbits.

    We've come so far in the past century. I'm kicking myself for not having noticed it before. Been getting text alerts, but checking the full list provides more choices, not just the ones 3am-5am!

  11. #11
    Schuylkill Trail Bum
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    Light pollution ruins the night sky.

    Here in the philly area, I can enjoy the planets through binoculars... mostly jupiter, saturn, mars and venus.

    But the best sky viewing I've had is either smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the navy ship I was on for 4 years, or 8k feet up in the mountains in northern NM and also in Vermont.

    I used to use the Heavens Above website https://www.heavens-above.com/ to plan my watching of Iridium flares and ISS transits.

    But the glow over the entire northeast corridor from the northern tip of Long Island down to northern Virginia makes skywatching in these parts kind of pointless.

  12. #12
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    I haven't looked for the ISS lately, but I've seen it many times in the past. On any reasonably clear night, a little looking will reveal many satellites. There are a lot of things up there.

    I remember once, in the days when the Shuttle was still flying, seeing the Shuttle and ISS flying formation shortly after undocking. Both very bright. It was pretty cool.

    Is anyone here an old enough space nut to remember an early experiment in "passive" communications satellites called "Echo"? Launched in 1960, it was an aluminum-coated plastic balloon that was inflated in orbit to a 100-foot sphere. The idea was that microwave signals could be beamed at the balloon, and enough energy would be reflected for the signal to be picked up at a distant location. It didn't work very well, and advances in miniaturization of electronics and power sources soon eliminated the theoretical cost advantages of a passive system.

    But it was big and bright, and one of the first artificial satellites easily visible to the naked eye. As a 10-year-old science fan I was pretty excited to see it.
    "None of us knows for sure what's out there; that's why we keep looking. Keep your faith; travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you, constantly." The 13th Doctor.

  13. #13
    Schuylkill Trail Bum
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    I haven't looked for the ISS lately, but I've seen it many times in the past. On any reasonably clear night, a little looking will reveal many satellites. There are a lot of things up there.

    I remember once, in the days when the Shuttle was still flying, seeing the Shuttle and ISS flying formation shortly after undocking. Both very bright. It was pretty cool.

    Is anyone here an old enough space nut to remember an early experiment in "passive" communications satellites called "Echo"? Launched in 1960, it was an aluminum-coated plastic balloon that was inflated in orbit to a 100-foot sphere. The idea was that microwave signals could be beamed at the balloon, and enough energy would be reflected for the signal to be picked up at a distant location. It didn't work very well, and advances in miniaturization of electronics and power sources soon eliminated the theoretical cost advantages of a passive system.

    But it was big and bright, and one of the first artificial satellites easily visible to the naked eye. As a 10-year-old science fan I was pretty excited to see it.
    I remember Echo. Seeing it was one of the coolest moments of my early childhood sky watching.

  14. #14
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    ?? Did someone mention Echo Echo Echo?

  15. #15
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    I use that ISS HD Live app on my phone almost daily, not only does it show you its current location, it also shows rocket launches and space-walks. My favorite part though, is the real-time sunset/sunrise countdown and live feed from its earth-facing camera.
    Makes me wonder, what if if you timed it right by using that spot-the-station web-site, if you could see yourself on the app from the ISS camera feed as it flies over-head?
    In reference to the Assault on Mt Mitchell...
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  16. #16
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    Novelty has yet to wear off. Saw it twice tonight already. First right before sunset, almost missed it due to the light sky, almost directly overhead; then about 95 minutes later, lower in the sky and mostly horizontal.

    So crazy how it laps the earth like it's nothing. It'll be back again at 11:49 following almost the exact same horizontal path.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by upstateSC-rider View Post
    Makes me wonder, what if if you timed it right by using that spot-the-station web-site, if you could see yourself on the app from the ISS camera feed as it flies over-head?
    You're so vain, you probably think this ISS is about you. You're so vain (you're so vain), you probably think this ISS is about you about you about you...

    Quote Originally Posted by Christine View Post
    Novelty has yet to wear off.
    Up to and a tad through Apollo 11, every manned NASA launch was a television event, not just a news event. By Apollo 17, the networks would set aside perhaps 10 minutes for a launch, 10 minutes of daily updates on moon activity (including launch return) and 10 minutes for splashdown.

    In the Shuttle era, after the initial uptick, our collective attention spans again waivered even with two disasters (if it weren't for Musk and his ilk pushing for publicity dollars, we'd not hear of ANY launches including manned (how many times do you hear a big deal of crew changes from the ISS))... most of us now seem far more occupied looking down at a phone screen than looking up at all creation.

  18. #18
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    Caught a distant glimpse of it tonight, at first I thought it could be a plane due to "blinking" light, but the scattered clouds probably made it look like that. It was the right time and trajectory so I'm 99% sure that was it.

    Came by again less than an hour later, but I missed it because it was during the finale of Cool Hand Luke. That pass was only about a minute and low in the sky anyway.

    Storms rolling in tomorrow, and I'll be babysitting- too bad I can't show this to my nephews.

  19. #19
    Frog Whisperer
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    Am I remembering correctly.... Wasn't Echo the reason the invented mylar?
    Of course I'm sure...that doesn't mean I'm right.....

    "There's no sense being stupid unless you show it."

    "that was like trying to teach a goldfish how to play basketball over the phone."

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