Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Satellite Passes Tonight!

This from Ben Honey (West Hawaii Astronomy Club), forwarded by Gary Fujihara (IfA Outreach):

Tonight is an excellent opportunity to view 3 of the biggest 'satellites' in orbit right now! Endeavour will be undocking from the space station today in under 4 hours and will be slowly moving away throughout the day. This means that after dusk tonight there will be an opportunity to see both objects 'chase' each other over head. From a vantage point in Hawaii:

Look low in the Northwest at 8:52 PM. The space shuttle Endeavour will appear first. A few seconds later the ISS will become visible, brighter and chasing right behind. The pass will be brief, only about a minute, and will not get very high in the sky as the spacecraft move more northward. Therfore, make sure your view of the Northwest is unobstructed! Fortunately for me, my viewing from here in Houston - two orbits earlier - will be better with a pass almost overhead.

But that's not all! Right now a Russian Progress resupply vessel (unmanned) is chasing the Space Station from behind, to dock tomorrow. People with sharp eyes should be able to spot the Progress following approximately the same orbital track 5-7 minutes after ISS is no longer visible. The Progress is significantly smaller than the space shuttle, and thus will be dimmer. Don't be surprised if it is very hard to pick out!

You can go to Heavens Above to get this kind of prediction information by making a free account and entering your Lat/Long coordinates (however, heavens-above does not have predictions for the Progress vessel).

The NASA website SkyWatch is easy to navigate and can help you find out when to view vehicles passing over your area. I believe it includes the Progress: