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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

VIDEO: Visitor from space comes to Charlestown tonite

International Space Station to make three minute pass over Charlestown at 6:17 PM 
By Will Collette

Astronaut Scott Kelly from the International Space Station. Shows the
Earth at the top and a gorgeous view of the Milky Way

There is a possibility of light snow tonight which will be preceded by more cloudy sky.

But as I read the National Weather Service for tonight, that seems to be after midnight. Thus you might be able to catch a 3 minute pass by the International Space Station over Charlestown. 

The ISS will appear in the west-northwest at 6:17 PM sharp at an angle of 10 degrees over the horizon.

It will travel across the sky up to a high of 54 degrees elevation - for three minutes heading toward the west where it will seem to vanish at about 54 degrees above the horizon.

The Space Station, like all other visible man-made satellites, is only visible when reflected sunlight hits it just the right way.

Because the ISS is in a low earth orbit, its sighting always happen pretty close to sunset or sunrise.

You can sometimes see much higher satellites at any time of night, but they are much harder to spot than the ISS since they are much smaller and further away. There are the Iridium communications satellites that are generally only visible as a brief flash.

I've only seen one that I could positively identify as an Iridium satellite - they resemble a meteor fireball, but with a very different motion.

They do occur frequently though, but you have to know where and when to look. Here's a chart of December Iridium flares over Charlestown:

You can sign up with NASA's "Spot the Station" listserve and get a warning e-mail before such overflights. Click here to sign up for the alerts.

I did, and received this message about tonight's overflight:
Time: Wed Dec 13 6:17 PM, Visible: 3 min, Max Height: 54°, Appears: 10° above WNW, Disappears: 54° above W 
With binoculars, you should be able to see some detail on the station, but I also enjoy watching it with the naked eye.

It should look like this: