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Ottawa Citizen
Feb 17, 2012

Space Station set for prime-time viewing in Ottawa... This Sunday

OTTAWA ? Sunday evening will bring one of the best chances in a long time to watch the International Space Station fly over Ottawa and Montreal.

The station will take four minutes to cross the sky, beginning at 6:23 p.m., so kids can see a real spaceship in flight without having to stay up late.

That?s a longer-than-usual appearance, making it easy to see, even in the bright city. And the weather forecast is clear.

The station is only visible when it flies over just before sunrise or just after sunset. That makes it tricky for kids to see in the summertime unless they stay up late.

To see it, face west. The sun, moon and stars all rise in the east and set in the west, but the space station goes the other way. On Sunday evening, it will appear in the west-northwest ? meaning that if you look directly west, it will appear a little to the right of that.

The space station is clearly visible with the naked eye, like a very bright star, but moving.

It will be about 36 degrees high at first, meaning a little more than one-third of the way up from the horizon (zero degrees) to a spot right overhead (90 degrees).

That bright white spot will be silent. It will cross the northern half of the sky, looking a little brighter as it moves farther from the sunset. And it crosses your field of vision faster than a high-flying airplane.

That?s what 28,000 kilometres an hour looks like ? about 25 times the speed of sound. It?s so fast that NASA lists the same times for viewing from Ottawa and Montreal.

It will fade out low in the northeast as it enters the Earth?s shadow.

What you?re seeing is reflected light from its white exterior and huge gold solar panels. Six astronauts are aboard.

While we will be in darkness, the station is 370 kilometres up, and it will still be sunny up there.

A bonus: If you miss it Sunday, you get another chance to see it on almost exactly the same course Monday at 7:02 p.m.

NASA is generally precise with its schedules but it?s still smart to show up a minute or two early. Besides, it helps the eyes get used to the night sky.

The station orbits Earth 16 times a day ? every 90 minutes ? but most of its overhead passes are invisible to us.

Canada is a partner in building the station.


Personal Note: As one who is keenly interested in the space program, and who enjoys watching every space related ocurrance, especially in person, I highly recommend watching for the ISS if you happen to be in the Eastern Canada pass area.


If you enjoy looking at the International Space Station, you can have a copy of the NASA photo taken of the ISS and the last shuttle to be docked to it on May 23, 2011.

The photo can be downloaded, printed and/or used as your computer wallpaper, as I currently use it.

Download HERE
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