This holiday weekend you can try your hand at spotting the International Space Station in the evenings. Its hard to miss because it will be the brightest star-like object in the entire sky and it will be gliding across the overhead sky in less than 4 minutes. So the trick is to know when and where to see it. You can go to my Sky Tonight page (and scroll down to mid-page) for major Cdn cities to get your own viewing table or there are a couple of great websites spaceweather.com (uses your zip or postal code) and heavens-above.com (uses city name).
Also there is a better than average chance to catch the Northern Lights this weekend so watch the northern horizon around midnight for any ghostly greenish glows. Check out my new National Geographic story on hunting for exoplanets by watching for their auroras.
Finally the Lyrid meteor shower will be peaking on April 22, Friday night into the predawn hours on Saturday. It’s not a super show but will produce a shooting star every 3 to 6 minutes from a dark location. Check out my National Geographic story on this Easter meteor shower.
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Check out this real-time recreation of Yuri Gagarin’s 108 minute voyage into space on April 12, 1961. It was made by astronauts aboard the International Space Station filming out their porthole – looking down at Earth below. Very moving film.
Also it is the 30th anniversary of the maiden flight of the space shuttle. First time in history a reusable space vehicle in operation and landing like a glider. Here is a neat video that compresses all 133 shuttle flights into 133 seconds.
Sky Show: You can also check out the International Space Station for yourself all week long. It is making visible passes in the skies above your backyard in the early morning hours. You can read more on my National Geographic column here.
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This week’s episode highlights the Moon pairing up with a star cluster, where to find Venus, and the space station makes bright flybys.
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Over the course of the next week or so the International Space Station will be making bright flybys in the early morning hours up until dawn. Making it a grand sight is that construction is so near completion that the station is about as big as a football field so that it is very reflective to sunlight, making it superbright in the sky.
Just look for a bright white star glide across the starry sky in a out 2 to 4 minutes. Click on the Space Station icon on the right-hand sidebar or go to my Sky Tonight page and click on your city of choice or choose Elsewhere, and get your customized viewing table.
For an explanation of how to read your viewing timetable chart click on the image to the left. It is a sample chart for Toronto that gives you a brief rundown on what the main sections mean.
Amazingly there are times when the Sun hits the station just the right angle making it brighten to levels that surpass the most brilliant star or planet – meaning only the Sun and Moon are only brighter! For skywatchers like you and me this means that it is really easy to spot even from within city limits – as long as you don’t have buildings blocking your way. How cool is that! The ISS will be best place for anyone living in North America and Europe so enjoy the show!
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I always say that a two for one deal is a good thing – especially when it comes to skywatching. This April check out planet Saturn at its best as it reaches its closest and most brilliant for the year.
Remember that while you can see Saturn as a bright star with the naked eye, you need a small telescope to see its famous rings. As a bonus sky target hunt down the kingof beasts in the sky – Leo the lion constellation. It is a great starting point to learning your night sky because the star pattern that makes Leo really looks like its namesake. Both Saturn and Leo rise in the southeast after sunset. Read all the details about these two cosmic gems in my National Geographic Skywatching column this week.
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