The International Space Station is visible to observers on Earth on a regular basis. The space station flies about 220 miles overhead, circling the globe once every 90 minutes. Usually, the station is invisible us on Earth during some of those orbits because the sun isn’t shining on it and lighting it. When the station’s path aligns with Earth’s day-night terminator, the spacecraft is in nearly constant sunlight and it shines.
I signed up last year for Spot the Station and I get alerts for when the station passes over Paradelle. I’m not sure most readers will understand why I enjoy looking up and seeing it passing overhead. With clear skies, it looks like a moving star and it can be as bright as Venus.
Part of the attraction is knowing that this “star” has people in it. As a kid during the “space race,” I wanted to be an astronaut. I knew the odds were low, but I also wanted to be shortstop for the NY Yankees. I set my dreams high, and when they had to be brought back to Earth, I settled for watching the skies and watching the games.
Yesterday the space station was visible here at 5:37 PM and visible for 3 minutes (at 77 degrees, appearing from WSW and disappearing in the Northeast. For those few minutes, I was flying over Paradelle and looking down on the clouds and the big blue marble below.
Between looking at the space station and watching the “falling stars” from the Geminid meteor shower this week, I do feel a bit more connected to space. That’s a good thing, right?