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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

VIDEO: Space station flies over Charlestown tonite

International Space Station to make four minute pass over Charlestown at 7:47 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

Tonight, you should be able to see the International Space Station make one of its overflights of Charlestown.

The National Weather Service says our mostly sunny day will transition into a partly cloudy night.

The ISS will appear in the west-northwest at 7:47 PM sharp at an angle of 44 degrees over the horizon.

It will travel across the sky up to a high of 84 degrees elevation, almost directly overhead. Then it will cruise along for four minutes heading toward the southeast where it will seem to vanish at about 11 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 this week's 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 Apr 11 7:47 PM, Visible: 4 min, Max Height: 84°, Appears: 44° above WNW, Disappears: 11° above SE 
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: