Monday, December 21, 2015

We Saw the International Space Station!

International Space Station courtesy of Creative Commons

The other day as I was reading the blogs I follow online, I found out the International Space Station (ISS) was going to be visible in Hawaii in the southwest sky at 7:07pm.  It was just before six at the time.  I went out on our lanai to look at the sky and the clouds were starting to stack up.  

Actually, here's a view of the sky that night.  Southwest would be the far left side of the view.

As many of you know, I can get pretty geeky about certain subjects and viewing things in the night sky is one of them.  During a vacation once, we drove up to Kilauea at 11 o'clock at night just to see the Southern Cross as it barely peeked up above the horizon.  Yeah.  It was worth it.  I would totally do it again, but you've got to have a clear night, and that's rare in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Back to my story...
I didn't want to miss the ISS, so I had an idea.  We jumped in the car and headed up the saddle road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (now called the Daniel K Inouye Highway)
to see if we could get up above the clouds.  

Twenty-one miles later, we were in the saddle and had a gorgeous view of the night sky.  So many stars.  The Milky Way.  When was the last time you were somewhere so dark that you could see the Milky Way?  Have you ever seen the Milky Way?  Put it on your bucket list now.  I'll wait.  

We parked the car and used our phones to get a general idea of where the ISS would rise from the horizon (note:  both iPhones were off, but the car's compass was spot on).  One star seemed slightly brighter than the others.  At the horizon line, it appeared to move slowly, but as it headed straight up in the sky, it got brighter.  Was it brighter than anything else in the sky?  Probably, but I didn't take my eyes off of it for a second, so I really couldn't say.  It certainly was the only star in the sky moving straight up.  

As it approached the zenith, it disappeared.  It took a moment to realize that once the ISS is far enough around the Earth from the Sun, then nothing would be reflecting on it and of course it would disappear!

I'd say the whole viewing was less than two minutes.  

Forty-five minutes later we were back at home.  Was it worth it?  Yep.  I'd do it again.  And next time we'll bring our telescope for some amazing night sky viewing.

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