Space Station fly-bys on tap tonight and tomorrow
More news from space, but this time there's a pretty good chance you'll be able to see what us nerds are drooling over. That is, if you're quick. The International Space Station (and the Discovery Space Shuttle) will be making a couple of super-fast fly-bys over Toronto tonight and tomorrow. And though it won't look like the photo above, if you know where to direct your gaze, it should be pretty cool to watch it whip through the sky.
According to Space Weather, "the International Space Station is the biggest, brightest object orbiting Earth. The station's solar arrays span 240-feet from tip to tip, almost as wide as a football field. The ISS outshines Venus; only the sun and Moon are brighter."
Because it doesn't really have lights of its own, the best time to catch the ISS is when it passes your area shortly after sunset (when it picks up sunlight but it remains dark at ground level). This is good for us, as tonight's pass is scheduled at 6:56 p.m. and tomorrow's at 7:22 p.m. So while fly-bys are a fairly common occurrence, these viewing conditions should be nearly ideal.
Here's the catch: the ISS generally moves across the horizon for only three to four minutes. So if you want to see it, you'll need to know exactly where to look. Toward that end, NASA's Human Space Flight page is helpful (as is Heavens Above, though it's been temperamental of late). Generally speaking, viewers should look to the west northwest. And whatever you do, don't bust out the binoculars or telephoto lenses before you get a handle on its location as you're likely to miss it all together. Once you have it in sight, you might want to consider using magnification.
Lead photo from NASA