Catch a quick glance of the International Space Station in the South Jersey sky – Press of Atlantic City

Posted: October 8, 2019 at 4:46 pm

As I write these words, an originally clear weather forecast for this week has changed to a possibly very cloudy one. It all depends on whether a developing coastal low gets stuck and bedevils us for several days.

Despite this newer weather forecast, Im going to remain optimistic and tell you about two fine passes of the International Space Station scheduled for us tonight and especially Wednesday night. Our other topics today include the Hunters Moon this coming Sunday and a touch of Halleys Comet meteors two Mondays from now.

Tuesday and Wedneday nights good space station passes. Lets hope we at least get breaks in the clouds during evening twilight tonight and Wednesday night. If so, well get views of the ISS the International Space Station from here in South Jersey.

Tonights pass is most interesting when the ISS is on the verge of passing into Earths shadow. At 8:02 p.m. tonight, look for a point of light brighter than any other, partway up the south sky. At 8:03:55 p.m. it is not greatly far to the right of the moon when suddenly in just a few seconds it will fade completely from view. What has happened is that the ISS, more than 200 miles above Earths surface, has finally entered into Earths shadow a few hundred miles southeast of Bermuda.

Wednesday nights ISS pass is brighter, higher in the sky, and goes closer to the moon in our sky. It does occur much earlier in twilight. But around 7:13 p.m. you should see the ISS weather permitting climbing from out of the northwest sky. The brilliant point of the ISS appears virtually overhead for people in South Jersey as it passes approximately over Delaware Bay and near the bright star Vega. The space station fades somewhat as it heads down the southeast sky but is still prominent at 7:16:20 p.m. as it passes not far left of the big moon. The ISS fades into the earths shadow over the Atlantic a few hundred miles from North Carolina at 7:17:51 p.m.

Suppose the sky is overcast either? You can get a highly detailed simulated view of what it would look like from the space station itself as it passes by us. Just go to heavens-above.com and click on the feature ISS Interactive 3-D visualization. And whether you see the ISS in the sky or on a devices screen, just remember: this is a space station with solar panels that stretch across a span similar to that of two football fields all traveling more than 17,000 mph with human beings on board.

Hunters Moon: The most famous moon is Harvest Moon the full moon closest to autumn equinox, the start of autumn. But the next full moon has some of the same qualities including sometimes looking like a big orange-gold pumpkin as it rises around sunset. This moon, which usually happens in October, is called Hunters Moon. This year, the exact moment of full moon occurs at 5:08 p.m. on Oct. 12 this coming Sunday. Thats actually before moonrise here in New Jersey but dont worry: the Hunters Moon will look as round and fully lit as could be when it rises for us around sunset that day. And it will look that way all night long in fact, look almost full even the night before and after.

Can you see a Halleys C omet meteor? If the night of Oct. 21 to 22 is clear, scan the sky from around 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. for shooting stars from the east meteors from the Orionid meteor shower. The 40% lit moon rises right after that hour and so may hinder us seeing some of the larger number of Orionids youd normally expect from the southeast around 2 a.m. and from the south around 4 a.m. If, however, you see even just one of these Orionid meteors, youre seeing a very special bit of space rock burning high in our atmosphere. Why special? Because the Orionids are pieces of dust and rock released at past returns of the famous Halleys Comet.

Fred Schaaf is a local author and astronomer. He can be reached at: fschaaf@aol.com.

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Catch a quick glance of the International Space Station in the South Jersey sky - Press of Atlantic City

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