Archive for September, 2011

The International Space Station and Perseid Meteors

During the month of August the ISS (International Space Station) could be seen in the sky during most evenings. The first time that I saw it was on Sunday 21st August when my family and I were on holiday in Weymouth. I wasn’t sure what to expect really as I didn’t know how bright it was going to be and how easily it could be made out from the rest of the stars in the sky. I had a NASA app on my phone which gave the general direction of where the ISS would be coming from and the length of time it would be viewable in the sky, but I was still worried that I wouldn’t see it.

Whilst on the look out, I was scanning the sky generally for constellations and satellites and to my amazement saw the best two shooting stars I had ever seen in my life.  These were obviously not actual shooting stars but were two meteors from the Perseid Meteor Shower. This was especially great as the height of the meteor shower was a couple of weeks before, so these would have come from the tail end of the passing shower and were totally unexpected. They were so bright and the trails in the sky were long and wide. It was brilliant to see and completely lucky that I was looking at that area of the sky at the right time. I knew these were part of the Perseids as their general direction originated from towards the constellation Perseus, and from my position, they shot past in front of Cassiopeia as well.

The image below is the best image I can find that shows almost exactly what I saw in the sky.

A Perseid Meteor

A Perseid Meteor -

Not long after, I suddenly spotted a very bright light in the sky coming from the direction where the ISS was meant to originate from. The object was moving as well which meant that what I was seeing was the ISS, and it was bang on time (the app gives the time of when the ISS becomes visible in the sky). Where I was watching was in the direct path of the ISS, so it flew directly over the top of me which was great to see!  Looking at it you could just make out the solar panels and the general shape which made it an amazing sight. It lasted for about 4 minutes before it passed by and faded to black as it moved away from the sun (which was reflecting off the panels which is why it was visible in the sky).  After seeing this, I was out most evenings when the sky was clear to view the International Space Station pass overhead, and I would recommend the viewing to anyone as it is a great thing to experience and puts a lot of things into perspective.  Unfortunately, now we are in mid-September, the ISS has moved out of viewable range in the evenings although it can be seen for a fleeting moment during the early hours of the morning on occasions.

The International Space Station (ISS)

The International Space Station (ISS) -

The sighting of the International Space Station also cleared up a little mystery from earlier in the year when I was out at Mount Batten in Plymouth and saw a very bright object move across the sky at a fairly brisk pace.  At the time I wasn’t sure what it was and thought it may have actually been a UFO, but after seeing the ISS during the Summer, I can now say that what I saw in March was the ISS travelling across the sky above us. Am glad this has been cleared up although it would have been nice if it was a UFO!  😉