Northeasterners look to the sky 6/20

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Planet Andy

Well-Known Member
Aug 10, 2004
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This information is from Joe Rao from the Museum of Natural History in NYC.

In the wake of a cold frontal passage on Wednesday morning, a clear, dry airmass will move into the Northeast US during the day and will set the stage for a clear view of both Atlantis and the ISS as they pass over on Wednesday evening.
Atlantis and the ISS will be separated by a distance of 46 statute miles. Ground-based observers should see both vehicles separated by an apparent angular distance of roughly 10-degrees (your clenched fist, held at arm's length is roughly equivalent to 10-degrees).
Wednesday's passage will last roughly 4-minutes and will begin at, or soon after 9:20 p.m. EDT, with both vehicles apparently rising out of the northwest sky and moving off toward the northeast.
They will attain an apparent maximum altitude at 9:22 p.m. of roughly 50-degrees above the north-northeast horizon. At 9:23 p.m., they will appear to streak past the bright blue-white star, Vega (in the constellation of Lyra, the Lyre). Finally, both Shuttle and ISS will quickly fade out of sight at 9:24 p.m., low above the east-southeast horizon as they dip into the Earth's shadow.
Using SPACEBIRDS (a special program that I have used over the past two decades to track artificial satellites) I've determined that at their highest respective points in the sky, both vehicles will be at a range distance of approximately 275-statute miles from ground observers in NY and southern New England and that both vehicles will be at least 85 percent illuminated by the Sun. As such, we should expect the ISS to approach -3 magnitude (rivaling Jupiter in brightness), while Atlantis should reach magnitude -1 (approaching the brightness of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky).
There is a slight chance that sunlight glinting off a solar panel on the ISS or a wing on Atlantis, may cause a brief "flare" in brilliance (Just watching the undocking of Atlantis on NASA-TV, I've noticed that the truss array radiators are in opposing directions . . . port facing "back" starboard facing forward to the direction of travel. When a truss radiator was last in this orientation, before sun tracking was initially switched on, it quite often produced a flare . . . so it will be interesting to see if this happens again).
Both space vehicles will be moving along a track from roughly Watertown, NY down to Cape Cod, allowing us to see them from our part of the country.
Cool! I would love to watch but i will be in the middle of a 200 question exam. maybe my teacher will let me take a break to watch it. Will it be possible to video tape this passing?
I always like watching them fly over. Especially when they're together.

If you have a telescope point it towards them. You won't believe how amazing the detail is. The space shuttle looks like a small triangle, but the ISS has a lot of stuff. You can see the orange solar panels which are very bright, and several living compartments. I have found that 90X is the minimum magnification to really see things well, but around 200X is better. It can be a total pain to follow it so you may want to practice on planes first.
How did you just watch them, isn't this not going to happen until tomorrow night?
Originally posted by outasight13
How did you just watch them, isn't this not going to happen until tomorrow night?

You can see the ISS most nights. Here check this out This site has lots of satellites as well as the ISS and shuttle. Just plug in the city/town where you live and boom you can see what's coming.
Originally posted by Rocketry nut
You can see the ISS most nights.

Chicago area residents got an OUTSTANDING ISS / STS-117 pass last night starting a 9:31. The ISS was at .5 magnitude!!! This was the first joint pass I managed to catch since the STS-79 / MIR mission back in 1996.
Supposedly, at 22:54 tonight from Savannah, GA the ISS is to have a 1.4 magnitude! :eek:
I have seen the Iss and shuttle many times. Twice so far during this Shuttle mission. I went out last night to watch the first evening pass (there have been several visible passes most nights just below, through or above Cassiopeia looking from Souhteastern Ct.) but the overcast set in at about 8:45 and I didn't get to see anything. Tonight should be spectacular as it is supposed to be clear and dry and much higher in the sky between the Big and Little Dipper.
This is the NASA sight I have always used for predicting passes.
I just saw them in Ma. Awesome
It was exactly as Andy described it would be
very clear and bright and a fists distance apart
Thanks for the heads up
I just saw them here in Ct. I was able to snap some pictures but I got a bit excited and forgot to set the timer so they are a bit wiggly. This is the best of the shots just before they set behind the trees, ISS is on the bottom w/ Atlantis trailing above.

How about that? I've not bothered looking before, but sure enough, there they were just now, flying over one after the other. Great view. Thanks for this thread.
It was amazing seeing both go over one after the other. I have a friend with a 10in scope who invited me to go over look at whatever tonight. How could I resist on a night with the ISS/Space Shuttle coming over. Well I only got to see the ISS in his scope at 200X and wow was it good. I've never seen so much detail. You could literally see everything. My friend saw the shuttle. He said that the payload doors may have been open because there were little corners sticking out from the triangle shape. My camera died when they went over, but my friend got a good shot with his camera. When he emails me, I'll post it here.

I thought you guys might like this photo I took tonight. It's taken with my L4 through my friend's 10in dob. I didn't touch up the photo or anything.
I went out and saw them very clearly! My neighbors across the street were also out looking at them as well. At one point when it was nearly over to the other horizon some random woman from the neighborhood who was just out walking came over to us and asked what we were all looking at and if it was anything she needed to be concerned about. (There was a coyote or something sighted in our area not long ago.) She thought we were looking down the street. I told her to look where we were looking and then told here what she was looking at, she was amazed and thought it was pretty cool. I grabbed my neighbor's binocs and could see a little detail on the ISS.

Btw, the shuttle's payload doors are opened once they get to orbit and are not closed until shortly before reentry, so they were of course opened when you saw it last night.

ironically, I wasn't in a place last night where I could witness the flyby but thanks Snede that's a great shot and Rockethittman I only passed on the info from the source I stated at the top of my original post but thanks for giving me credit anyway...Glad I could point you all there.
Since the shuttle didn't land today, we will all get another shot tonight! Look to the West-Northwest sky tonight at 9:41 eastern time and you will see the 2 of them coming across again, and tonight they should reach a slightly higher max elevation than last night by about 2 degrees. The pass will be approx 3 minutes duration.

Well I recieved the photo that my friend took last night. Even though it's a little bright due to light pollution, I think it's pretty good. Exposure is 30 seconds and the light in the trees is the moon.
I just viewed them again tonight. They were fainter and further apart, but still really good. The ISS looked nice in my 4.5in scope at 110X. They have built a lot since last year. I just wish there was a way to hand track the ISS in the scope and have a camera on the eyepiece which would take a shot. People have done it before, but it's impossible to track without shaking. I could probably get lucky, but it would be very blurry.

Oh they're going to pass again after 11 tonight.