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ISS sighting stories


dharak1
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I saw the ISS for the first time with my own eyes tonight along with the cargo launched the other day. twice actually. I was with my friend at a lake and around 9:30 PM she pointed out a bright light moving across the sky and it was too quiet to be a plane so I googled ISS sightings for Edmonton and sure enough right there, April 9th 9:23 to 9:27 PM. A couple moments before it went out of sight she noticed a dim light trailing right behind it. I actually said to myself "there is no way that's what I think it is". After it disappeared I googled launches to the ISS and I'm betting there's a good chance what I saw was the cargo ship prior to docking that launched on the 8th. I rechecked the pass times and it was coming back just before 11 so we went back out and watched it for a couple of minutes before it passed into the shadow of the Earth halfway over the planet. She wasn't as interested with it as I was and was more concerned with the fact that it was only 3 degrees out. It was incredibly cool for me though and I'm going to watch it tomorrow night (today I guess) around 10 for sure. I was wondering if anyone here has some cool stories about seeing the ISS. It was amazing and now I really want to invest in a good camera. Has anyone here ever gotten a good picture of the ISS?

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I've been able to spot it a few times, sometimes trailing a cargo ship. It makes me wonder, do cargo ships ever approach from "in front?"

If you do a Google image search for "iss pictures from the ground" you can see what sort of pics people have been able to take. No such luck for me though; I don't have anything that can track, never mind something moving that fast.

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I tried getting a picture with my phone, it's impossible to tell it apart from a picture of a star though. I think they intentionally line up cargo to follow behind for some reason. Maybe it's more effective to have the cargo catch up to the ISS than the other way around. Whatever it is I'm sure there's some reason behind it. I've never thought about it.

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6 hours ago, dharak1 said:

Maybe it's more effective to have the cargo catch up to the ISS than the other way around. Whatever it is I'm sure there's some reason behind it.

It would be, yeah. Having the approaching vessel catch up from retrograde means it's in a lower orbit. Not much point boosting the Dragon to a higher orbit and then lowering it again once the ISS has caught up with it.

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I've seen it once, it was amazing.

Brighter than any of the stars in the sky, and moving many times faster than any airplane. Horizon to horizon in all of 4 minutes.

I just stared at it and thought: that's us. Humans made that. They built the pieces, accelerated them to unimaginable speeds, and docked them together to form a structure big enough to be seen from hundreds of kilometers away. There are people living in that tiny dot and going about their daily routine as if it's nothing. 

In that moment I really, really loved the human race. 

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If you're in a place with little light pollution, you can see all sorts of spacecraft and debris after dusk and before dawn. I get an email every time the ISS will be potentially visible, so I've seen it plenty of times. Never with a cargo ship behind it though! It's just barely small enough that you can't make out it's shape with the naked eye, but it's almost possible to see the rectangular shape of the solar panels. It's amazing to think that that thing is in space, people made it and put it there, there are people in it, and space is right there, right above me.

I can go there.

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Ooooooh, OP! Consider yourself lucky and me very jealous!

I was out on my birthday (6th of April) which was also the original launch date scheduled for the SpaceX Dragon. I was so sure I saw 2 bright dots near each other in the sky, but then came back home and read about the cancellation of the launch ;_; it was probably the solar panels on the opposite ends of the station that looked like two separate sources of light.

Anyway, if you're also interested in seeing the Iridium flares I recommend you to download the ISS Detector app for Android. It's a really nice and user-friendly app which also isn't very heavy, which is a plus.

8 hours ago, KerbonautInTraining said:

I've seen it once, it was amazing.

Brighter than any of the stars in the sky, and moving many times faster than any airplane. Horizon to horizon in all of 4 minutes.

I just stared at it and thought: that's us. Humans made that. They built the pieces, accelerated them to unimaginable speeds, and docked them together to form a structure big enough to be seen from hundreds of kilometers away. There are people living in that tiny dot and going about their daily routine as if it's nothing. 

In that moment I really, really loved the human race. 

A thousand times this.

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I've seen it three times. Twice in one night and once a few years back at a science museum. It was awesome. I saw it last a few weeks ago and stared at it with my telescope. I couldn't see any of the borders of it, only a white dot. Too much light pollution I guess, I am in a rather crowded community.

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9 hours ago, KerbonautInTraining said:

Brighter than any of the stars in the sky, and moving many times faster than any airplane.

When I first saw it I thought it was a plane, but then I realized that it would have to be traveling WAAAYY too fast to be one.  I looked up the position of the ISS at the time, and sure enough, that's what it was.

4 hours ago, cubinator said:

If you're in a place with little light pollution, you can see all sorts of spacecraft and debris after dusk and before dawn.

That's exactly the time I always end up seeing it.  I really want to see the milky way one day, though.  ;.;

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49 minutes ago, CliftonM said:

When I first saw it I thought it was a plane, but then I realized that it would have to be traveling WAAAYY too fast to be one.  I looked up the position of the ISS at the time, and sure enough, that's what it was.

A good way to tell if the object you're seeing (and the method I always use) is a space object and not an airplane is to watch it and see if it has blinky lights. If it does, it's a boring common airplane. If not, you've spotted an object in low Earth orbit! There are so many things though, it's very difficult to actually figure out exactly what that particular object is. The ISS is much brighter than most other objects (biiiiiig solar panels) so it's easy to spot in high-light-pollution areas. Many smaller bits and bobs can only be seen from darker areas.

49 minutes ago, CliftonM said:

I really want to see the milky way one day, though.  ;.;

It turns out you can see it from most places in the world. Unfortunately, none of those places have many humans and so are usually a little out of your way. Here's a map showing light pollution worldwide, it's good for finding out where good, convenient places might be. I live in a red zone, and I can easily notice the Orion Nebula, and sometimes Andromeda. The best spot I've stargazed at is at the edge of the Badlands, just south of Wall, SD. There you can see the Milky Way and Andromeda, but only after almost an hour of adjusting to the darkness. After a while, you can see Andromeda as a fuzzy blob, and the Milky Way as a soft band across the sky. Millions of stars are visible, and meteors are a common occurrence. Last time I was there I saw a real fireball! I'm sure someday you'll get to see all those things! Make sure, wherever you go, that you are there when the Moon is at a minimum, so that the bright reflected sunlight doesn't keep your eyes from being able to adjust and see all the stars. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 4/11/2016 at 4:56 PM, cubinator said:

If you're in a place with little light pollution, you can see all sorts of spacecraft and debris after dusk and before dawn. I get an email every time the ISS will be potentially visible, so I've seen it plenty of times. Never with a cargo ship behind it though! It's just barely small enough that you can't make out it's shape with the naked eye, but it's almost possible to see the rectangular shape of the solar panels. It's amazing to think that that thing is in space, people made it and put it there, there are people in it, and space is right there, right above me.

I can go there.

I use VERY high-powered binoculars to look at it. I can sorta make out the panels. I could almost touch it, it seems.

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I was trying to watch a sounding rocket launch from the Wallops Flight Facility, which was supposedly going to be visible from my location in ********. When five minutes had passed since when it was supposed to be visible, I checked my NASA app and saw that the ISS was going to be visible in two minutes. I ended up watching it instead of the launch. 

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