November Sky

Last Thursday, Mike and I saw the International Space Station/ Space Shuttle complex pass overhead. Earlier that day I checked NASA’s Human Spaceflight Realtime Data website to find out the next International Space Station sighting opportunity. As luck would have it the International Space Station and Space Shuttle were to pass directly overhead that evening. The crew of STS- 126 lauched a few days before aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew of Endeavour joined the Expedition 18 crew aboard the International Space Station. The crews of Endeavour and the International Space Station plan to carry out important repair work and prepare the station to house six crew members for long-duration missions in Earth orbit.

ISS, 16 November 2008

After confirming that the complex would indeed pass overhead on NASA TV and the Realtime Data website, Mike and I ventured outside and found a location with good visibility. We used a compass to determine the path the complex would take as it flew overhead. Fortunately it was a crisp, cool autumn evening so the sky was crystal clear. At 6:13pm, right on cue, the complex appeared in the sky. As the complex approached from the southwest, there was no question what it was. Reaching a maximum elevation of 88 degrees, the Station/ Shuttle complex was the brightest and fastest moving object in the sky. We were able to track the complex for about four minutes before it disappeared below the northeastern horizon.

Watching the Station/ Shuttle complex pass overhead at 17,500 miles per hour was a fascinating sight and one which I will not soon forget. As I peered through my binoculars at that bright light in the sky, I felt like a kid in a candy store window. I could not take my eyes off it as it flew overhead. I hope more people will take advantage of the opportunity to see the International Space Station fly overhead, attend a Space Shuttle launch, watch a lunar eclipse or take part in any of the numerous technological and scientific wonders that occur around us all the time.


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