Last night, on an impulse, I clicked on the roulette wheel in URoulette.com which serves up random web pages. Most often one finds something awful or simply boring, but this time, it served up a treat in the form of www.heavens-above.com.
Put your world location into this website and it will tell you what visible satellites are passing over your location and when and where in the sky to look and so on. (Apart from anything else, it’s an amazing piece of programming.) To my surprise, I discovered the International Space Station was due overhead ‘sleepy old Bournemouth’ at 23:58:45 BST (British Summer Time) and – it was a clear night.
I was expecting it of course, but it still seemed strange and sort of spooky when it not only appeared on time, but crossed close to the star at the bottom end of the “Plough/Big Dipper” (the name depends on what side of the pond you’re on) exactly as predicted in the starmap the website delivers.
I have to say, for a simple moving light in the sky, it was pretty spectacular. It was bright! Brighter than the stars, and seen more easily than any aircraft. It’s knowing what you’re seeing (and of course that there are people on board) that made it extraordinary.
I went back to the website and grabbed the image of the track.
Click here to see it. The dotted portion of the track is where it loses sunlight and becomes invisible.
If you’re so inclined, visit www.heavens-above.com and look for it yourself. You should see it once – show your kids!