Astronomy Geekgasm (or, Ursa Major Space Station)

I just watched the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Atlantis fly over. That was SO COOL.

Earlier this week (or maybe it was this past weekend), Aaron had mentioned that our friend Kris took his three-year-old son, Sam, outside and showed him the ISS flyover. After that, from what I understand, Sam not only wanted to see it fly over ALL THE TIME, but every passing car and truck became a space shuttle.

I can dig it.

Earlier this evening, I got a e-mail stating that the Atlantis had left the ISS and would be traveling behind it for the next visible orbit. Hmm, I thought. I should go out and look at that. So, I punched up the Heavens Above website and discovered that the flyover time for Toledo would be around 10:32pm. The ISS would come up in the northwest, pass through the Big Dipper, then arc overhead to set somewhere on the southeastern horizon.

I went outside a few minutes early, to get my eyes dark-adapted — but I got eaten by bugs and startled by neighbors, so I went back inside to wait out the last few minutes. With one minute to go, I stepped outside and sat on the front step, focusing my sight on Ursa Major.

And then, holy shit! There it was! No, there THEY were. One giant, fat, bright star, being chased by an only slightly dimmer star. They came up through the trees and passed through the Big Dipper, as promised. I felt like, if only my glasses were a little stronger, I could have seen those fancy new solar panels on the station. I was so excited, I not only gaped at the sky like a slack-jawed, grinning idiot, but I ran across the driveway in my bare feet to follow them to the other side of the house, so I could watch the ISS and Atlantis orbit over to the other horizon. As the pair set, they got dimmer and dimmer until, several degrees above the horizon, they both disappeared from sight. As they did, though, I saw another satellite crossing their path — I’m not sure which one it was, but it may have been Cosmos 1455 or TRMM.

That trumped the hell out of Halley’s Comet. (I lied to my Girl Scout leader about being able to see the comet back in 1986, just so they would let me pass the binoculars to someone else already.)

I could easily make this a ritual and watch the ISS flyby every night before bed, chamomile tea in hand. Good night, astronauts… 🙂

By the way… are there any other Trekkers (or Trekkies) out there who have trouble calling the International Space Station the ISS, in light of the mirror-universe ISS Enterprise?