Of frost and space station watching

Montreal, Canada at night as seen from the International Space Station late December 2010. The countryside is faintly lit by moonlit snow, while blurry areas at the top and bottom are caused by cloud cover. The station was located over the New York-Pennsylvania border some 360 from the city when the photo was taken. Credit NASA

Space station watchers are back in business again starting tomorrow morning with a 6:34 a.m. pass in the southern sky as seen from the Duluth region. This several-week-long ‘season’ of visibility features grazes of the moon and bright star Vega and a sudden appearance of the station at the zenith as it exits Earth’s shadow.

I’ve listed times for the Duluth region below, but you can always to to Heavens Above or Spaceweather’s Flyby page for precise times for your town. Although you’ll see the International Space Station alternately in the southern or northern sky, it always travels from west to east and appears as a very bright, unblinking star with a slight yellowish tint.

Times are Central Daylight:

* Tomorrow morning starting at 6:34 a.m. in the south-southeastern sky. Slices right atop the moon’s edge two minutes later.
* Sunday March 27 at 5:52 a.m. across the south-southeastern sky
* Tuesday March 29 at 6:18 a.m. A high, bright pass in the south. The station will pass directly
in front of the bright star Vega just after 6:21.
* Wednesday March 30 at 5:12 a.m. across the south-southeast
* Thursday March 31 at 5:37 a.m. Brilliant pass across the top the of the sky.
* Friday April 1 at 6:03 a.m. Bright pass across the northern sky. Zips
directly under Polaris just before 6:06.
* Saturday April 2 at 5:37 a.m. The ISS will “appear out of nowhere”
directly overhead at that time as it exits from Earth’s shadow and moves
eastward.

Frosty flakes line a wooden post this morning after a clear, cold night. Photo: Bob King

We’ve had a couple of very clear, calm nights here this week. They’ve made for great skywatching and photography but also for daylight surprises like this morning’s frost. Huge, fan-like ice crystals covered every exposed surface and added a special sparkle to the start of the day.

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