Do you want to see the space station

Not everyone knows that you can see the International Space Station if you just know when to look. You do not need a telescope either. Although the station is about 200 miles up, it is quite easy to see because firstly it is enormous, and secondly it has lots of reflective solar panels. It will be a very bright point crossing the sky in a matter of a couple of minutes; you might mistake it for an aircraft except that it does not flash.

You can get predictions for bright ISS passes over the next few days from the ISS prediction page (you will need to put in your own location if you are not near London). There is a nice pass tonight if you are intrested, go outside at about five past nine this evening (BST) and look southwest. Look for planet Jupiter which will be the brightest star in the sky; at 21:09 ISS will appear in the west and pass fairly near to Jupiter and disappear to the south at 21:14. You will need to check your watch so as to get the time right! This actually is rocket science.

It might look a bit like this (picture from APOD):

You will need the following essential astronomical equipmint:

  • A jumper. Mine is a nice soft woolly brown one. Yours should be similar to this except for the colour, do not copy or try to imitate keithlard. He is indestructible.
  • Some beer. Bottled beers are best as it is not so easy to spill them by mistake as you crane your neck looking at stars.
  • At least one eye. Obviously two are best, especially for not tripping over or bumping into things in the car park, but I do not want to discriminate against people with only one eye, or pirates. It is still possible to enjoy alco-stronomy.
  • (Optional) a monocle. This is a badge of recognition which means you are a serious scientist and not just someone hanging about furtively in the car park outside my flat.

It is extra exciting at the moment as shuttle Endeavour is docked with ISS, on a mission to bring the space station crew vital supplies of biscuits and fizzy pop, and if you have got really good eyesight you may see the space shuttle getting a ticket from an over enthusiastic space traffic warden. Having said that it is forecast to be cloudy tonight so you might see nothing at all. In this eventuality you should drink the beer and return to your homes in an orderly fashion, tutting about the British weather.

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