Friday, April 26, 2013

Another space station pass tonight

Hope you all enjoyed the celestial show last night! I was surprised  at how obvious the partial eclipse was visible to the naked eye. Here is a picture from my friend Gadi:

Inline image 1

Tonight we get an encore of lasts nights show, including an ISS pass, Saturn, the Moon, and Jupiter. The only thing missing is an eclipse, but you can't have everything.
Inline image 2
The first "star" to pop out in the west after sunset is Jupiter. By 7:45pm, the sky will be dark enough that Jupiter will shine alone in the the western sky a bit to the right of where the Sun set. As it gets darker, more bright stars will appear, but Jupiter will still outshine then till  it sets at 10pm.

Next comes the  space station. The ISS will not be as bright or high as yesterday, but the pass will be longer lasting about 3 minutes. Check it out after Shul as it rises in the northwest at  8:08pm. It will then head southeast about 1/2 way up the sky, passing the bright star Arcturus, and fading into the earth's shadow at 8:11, just before meeting Saturn near the SE horizon. (For advanced users, you can see the star map here.)

After the pass, see if you can spot Saturn, even before the Moon rises (at 8:15pm). It will actually be easier to find without the glare of the Moon right next door. It will be the brightest "star" just above the eastern horizon near where the space station disappeared. If you don't have a clear view of the  horizon you may need to wait an hour or 2 for Saturn to clear the hills and trees. The Moon will now appear below Saturn and about twice as far away as it was last night.

The view at about 9:00pm.

(We are actually going to have a visible ISS pass for the next 4 nights. You can find details yourself at heavens-above, or sign up for alerts at


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Thursday, April 25, 2013

See the Space Station tonight + a bonus of planets

 Chasing the ISS
We are in luck again as the International Space Station will be passing over our skies in Israel. The angle with the Sun is just right,  so that  even though it is way past sunset down here on the surface of the Earth, it is still sunny 200 miles up by the space station.  The ISS will reflect the sunlight as it passes, appearing like a very bright star slowly moving across the sky.

It will rise from the northwest horizon at  8:57 appearing like a very bright star. It will be hard to miss, as it will be brighter than any other star. The space station will head pretty much to a point overhead. where it will abruptly disappear 3 minutes later. This is because it will no longer be in the sunlight as it passes into the shadow of the Earth over our heads.
While you are out do notice the full Moon rising low in the east. As a bonus, notice the bright star to the lower left of the moon which is actually the planet Saturn! (For extra credit, you can also find Jupiter, as the brightest "star" hanging out in the west.)
For more, including details on the secret eclipse tonight, see the previous post.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Saturn and the Moon

Just a quick note to let y'all know to be on the lookout for Saturn. The ringed planet is coming up to its "opposition" on Sunday the 28. That simply means that Saturn,  Earth and Sun will all be on a straight line and thus, the planet will be opposite the Sun in our sky. As the Sun sets in the west, Saturn will rise in the east. Although the 6th planet will be above the horizon all night, it will be easier to spot an hour or 2  after sunset when it will be higher in the sky.

Our Moon will be on duty to help you find Saturn this week. On Thursday night the full Moon will lead about 5 degrees in front of Saturn. The pair will march across the sky all night long. The next night on Friday, the Moon will trail about 10 degrees behind Saturn. Either night the brightest "star" you see near the Moon will be Saturn.

Thursday's full Moon will also experience a partial eclipse at  11:07pm Israel time. However it will be tiny, only be about 1% of the moon will be covered, so it will be nearly invisible to casual observers. We'll have a long wait till Sep 2015 before the next lunar eclipse visible from Israel.