See the starry stepping stones of spring

Like stepping stones across the twilit sky, Sirius, Orion's Belt, the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters (and Venus too!)  follow one another across the western sky during at nightfall in April. Credit: Bob King

Sirius, Orion’s Belt, the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters (and Venus too!) splay across the western sky at nightfall in April. Photo taken April 4, 2015 around 8:45 p.m. local time. Credit: Bob King

They may all officially belong to the winter sky, but Sirius, Orion’s Belt, the Hyades and Pleiades tilt over in the most appealing way every April. With Venus joining the scene, you can star hop from one to the next the way you might use stepping stones to cross a stream. Take a look in the west during evening twilight, and you’ll see what I mean.

Each “stone” is distinctive in its own right — Sirius (the brightest star in the sky); Orion’s Belt (a stand-out star pattern visible across the globe); the Hyades (bright star cluster and the closest one to Earth at just 153 light years); the Pleiades (the famed Seven Sisters star cluster shaped like a dipper) and Venus, brightest planet in the sky.

Two fists held at arm’s length separate Sirius from Orion’s Belt and Orion’s Belt from the Hyades. You can squeeze one fist between the Hyades and Pleiades and the Pleiades and Venus. There’s a rhythm or spacing to the pattern pleasing to the eye.

Watch for Venus and the Seven Sisters to draw closer and closer this week. From April 10-12 (Friday-Sunday), they’ll be just 2.5° apart and a wonderful sight together in binoculars.

There’s also a hidden pattern among the five objects relating to their distances. At 8.6 light years, Sirius is the 5th closest star system beyond the Sun. Orion’s Belt stars all lie much farther – between 800 and 1,000 light years away. With the Hyades, our gaze returns to the “neighborhood” 153 light years from Earth, recedes again to 444 light years with the Pleiades and returns to our own front yard with Venus, a mere 110 million miles from home.

Near-far-near-far-near. E-I-E-I-O! Anyone for a round of Old MacDonald Had a Farm?

Typhoon Maysak strengthened into a super typhoon on March 31, reaching Category 5 hurricane status on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti captured this image while flying over the weather system on board the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Typhoon Maysak strengthened into a super typhoon on March 31, reaching Category 5 hurricane status. ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti captured this image while flying over the weather system on board the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

While you’re out enjoying spring’s many rhythms, watch for the International Space Station (ISS). It’s making passes again over the U.S. and other countries during convenient evening viewing hours through late April. When brightest, the space station bests the planet Jupiter as it travels steadily (and unblinkingly) from west to east across the sky.

You can get viewing times and more information at Heavens Above (click on the ISS link), key in your zip code at Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys page, have NASA alert you via e-mail or text message or download an app for your phone.

For the Duluth, northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin region, here are a few viewing times:

* Tonight April 5 from 8:40-45 p.m. you’ll see the ISS track across the southern sky
* Monday April 6 from 9:22-27 p.m. a brilliant high pass straight across the top of the sky
* Tuesday April 7 from 8:29-35 p.m. high in the south. Another brilliant pass.

Dragon captured, Christmas finally comes to the space station

Frame grab from video of the spectacular burn of Falcon 9’s nine first-stage engines during Saturday’s morning’s launch of the Dragon cargo ship to the ISS. Credit: NASA

SpaceX has successfully delivered it fifth cargo mission to the International Space Station. Astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Samantha Cristoforetti captured the Dragon, the named of the free-flying space ship, at 7:54 a.m. today January 12th. The ship will remain attached for the next four weeks.

The Falcon booster (right) and possibly the cargo ship (left) in a photo taken this past Saturday morning January 10th near Pike Lake, Minn. Credit: Stephanie Francis

Over the weekend two readers contacted me about seeing an amazing sight Saturday morning around 7 a.m. (CST). They described a hazy, glowing, mushroom-shaped object trailed by three fairly bright stars that first appeared near the moon traveling east. In case you saw it too, you were a lucky viewer of the Falcon 9 S2 booster, two ejected solar panels and the Dragon ship.

The SpaceX Dragon (with solar panels) is attached to the Harmony module. Credit: NASA TV

Dragon is crammed with a record breaking 5,108 pounds (2317 kg) of cargo to make up for some of the cargo lost on the Antares failure back in October. Its primary payload is NASA’s Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS) that will spend between 6 months and 3 years studying the location, composition and distribution of dust, smoke, pollution and aerosols (things like sea salt, dust and volcanic ash) from 250 miles up. CATS will gather data by shooting pulses of laser light into the air using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology.

On a more personal note, the ship will deliver belated Christmas presents to the 6-person crew plus essential food, water, clothing and spare parts. Besides the CATS system, 17 student experiments called the “Yankee Clipper” mission as well as science experiments to be conducted by the astronauts are included in the delivery.


Liftoff of Falcon 9 with the Dragon cargo ship

Among the student experiments, one will analyze the effect of microgravity on the attachment rate of E. coli bacteria to lettuce cells. Another will study whether teeth decay more quickly in microgravity. The list goes on. Smart kids.

All the goodies will be unpacked starting tomorrow when the crew will open the hatch of the Harmony module of the space station, where Dragon is docked. Merry Christmas!

Space station gleams again at dusk – real and otherwise

Frame grab from the new ISS 3D simulator at Heavens Above. It includes the globe at upper right which shows the station’s current position over the planet. Credit: Chris Peat

While you’re out watching for Geminid meteors this weekend you might just get to see the International Space Station (ISS) buzz your locale. It’s back in the evening sky and easy to spot at dusk for the next few weeks from many locations in the northern hemisphere.

Another frame grab from the simulation showing the ISS around sunrise. Credit: Chris Peat

Heavens Above is one of the best places to find out when and where to watch the ISS make a pass. Recently, its creator, Chris Peat, introduced a very cool interactive 3D visualization tool that shows a real-time image of the station over the ground along with a readout of its position. The fun part is using your mouse to zoom in and also change perspective. Spin the wheel to zoom in and out; hold down the left mouse button and drag to change your viewpoint.

Check it out and also grab the latest times to view the ISS in the flesh. Make sure you login with your city and then click the ISS link to get a table of times, magnitudes (how bright the station will appear) and more. If you click on a particular date, a map showing the spacecraft’s path across the sky will pop up.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for rendezvous and grapple during an earlier commercial resupply mission. Credit: NASA

The astronauts on board are getting ready for the next cargo ship arrival. The SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to launch at 12:20 p.m. (CST) next Friday December 19th. Since this will happen during the current evening run, some locations will get a chance to see the approach and rendezvous.

Here are times when the ISS will appear over the Duluth, northern Minnesota and the northwest Wisconsin region:

* Tonight Dec.12 from 5:59 – 6:03 p.m. Brilliant, high pass across the top of the sky
* Saturday Dec.13, 5:09 – 5:15 p.m. Brilliant, high in the southern sky
* Sunday Dec.14, 5:55 -5:59 p.m. Another excellent bright pass halfway up in the northern sky
* Monday Dec.15, 5:04 – 5:11 p.m. Brilliant, high in the northern sky
* Tuesday Dec. 16, 5:51 – 5:55 p.m. across the northern sky

The space station looks like a fairly quick-moving brilliant star similar in brightness to Jupiter and will first appear in the western sky traveling east.

Antares rocket ferrying cargo to space station explodes!


The Antares rocket explodes on takeoff around 6:22 p.m. EDT this evening from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Earlier this evening, Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded just seconds after launch. It was carrying the Cygnus cargo ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS). No one was injured in the blast as the rocket fell back to Earth in fireball of flame.

Cygnus contained more than 5,000 pounds of supplies for the ISS including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and food. Orbital Sciences contracts with NASA for supply runs to the space station. This was to be its third cargo delivery. The cause of the explosion is not yet known.

Jupiter-moon conjunction / Space station expecting guests / Hello Mars!

Tomorrow morning September 20th the crescent moon will be lined up in conjunction with the planet Jupiter ahead of the Sickle of Leo. This view shows the sky a little more than an hour before sunrise. Stellarium

Getting a little extra sleep these September mornings? That benefit comes from later sunrises as we approach the fall equinox. I don’t know about you, but I sleep better in a darkened bedroom.

The rate of change has really picked up in the past few weeks with the sun now rising around 7 o’clock, a far cry from late June’s 5:15.

Later sunrises also mean a chance to catch an early morning sky event. Many of us are active around 6 a.m. prepping for work or getting your children ready for school. If you can find a few minutes to spare, tomorrow morning offers up two fine sights.

Look east in the brightening dawn and you’ll see a slender crescent moon in conjunction with the brightest of the planets, Jupiter. The two will just 5º apart meaning you’ll be able to squeeze three fingers held at arm’s length between them. Then, between 5:30-6:15 a.m. now through at least next week, the International Space Station (ISS) will be making regular passes across the northern sky from many locations across the U.S., Canada and Europe.

To find out exactly when and where to look, key in your zip code at Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys site or select your city at Heavens Above. The ISS looks like the brightest “star” in the sky and travels from west to east. A typical complete pass takes about 5 minutes.

An earlier SpaceX Dragon capsule docking with the space station in March 2013. Astronauts will use the grapple arm to grab the capsule Monday morning Sept. 22 at around 6:30 a.m. CDT. Berthing begins around 8:45. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA

The three current astronauts aboard the space station await the arrival of the other half of their crew next week. NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore, Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev and Flight Engineer Elena Serova will launch aboard their Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25 to begin a six-hour, four-orbit trek to the orbiting complex.

Before that, SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon ship will launch tomorrow morning Sept. 20 at 1:14 a.m. Central time to deliver cargo and crew supplies to the ISS early Monday morning Sept. 22nd.

Among the items are the first 3D printer in space, the ISS-RapidScat instrument to monitor ocean winds for climate research and weather forecasting and a commercial experiment designed to make a better golf club. The printer will allow astronauts to make their own tools and replacement parts that would otherwise cost a lot of money to ship up from Earth.

Fruit flies such as these spent one month aboard the International Space Station during an earlier study. More are on the way. Credit: NASA / Dominic Hart

20 female mice and 30 fruit flies will also go along for the ride. The mice will be housed in the new Rodent Research habitat, where they’ll be studied for the effects of spaceflight on the human body. In space, rodents don’t spend their time floating around. They’re very physically active but tend to hold onto the walls.

Fruit flies will be monitored for the effects of oxidative stress changes which happen in organisms ranging from fruit flies to humans. Oxidative stress involves a build up of harmful molecules inside cells that can cause cell damage, and it’s associated with infections and disease.

Artist view of India’s Mars orbiter at Mars. Arrival and orbit insertion is expected for Sept. 24. Credit: ISRO

There’s much more in the works for space mission news as Mars welcomes two new emissaries from Earth. NASA will insert the MAVEN spacecraft into orbit around Mars Sunday night, and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) will arrive at the planet only three days later on Sept. 24.

The MAVEN mission will study Mars’ climate present and past as scientists try to figure out how the planet evolved from a warmer, wetter past to the current dry, cold desert. MOM is India’s first-ever mission to another planet. While primarily a demonstration and testing of that country’s technology, MOM will also photograph the Red Planet and study its mineral makeup from orbit.

ISS and ATV-5: Watch ‘em both fly by

30-second time exposure of the space station cutting across the Big Dipper at about 10:37 p.m. last night Aug. 6, 2014. Bob King

In this earlier article I mentioned that you could watch the International Space Station (ISS) and the cargo ship ATV-5 (Georges Lemaitre) cross the sky within a few minutes of each other. I’ve seen them pass by twice, Sunday and last night. Even in moonlight, they were easy to track.

ATV-5 cargo ship passes through the Big Dipper on a slightly different orbit 28 minutes later last night. Bob King

Being much larger with lots of highly reflective solar panels, the ISS is naturally much brighter than ATV-5. Their brightnesses vary depending on the pass, but if the ISS resembles Jupiter or Venus, the cargo ship is more like an average bright star.

You can watch for them through August 12 when the ship docks with the space station. Both travel from west to east. Go to Heavens Above for times and direction to look for your town. Below is a list of times for the Duluth, Minn. region:

* Tonight Aug. 7, the ISS appears in the west starting at 9:47 p.m. and crosses the northern sky. ATV-5 follows at 9:51 p.m.
* Friday Aug. 8 starting at 8:58 p.m. across the top of the sky. Brilliant pass! ATV-5  comes much later at 10:14 p.m. across the northern sky.
* Saturday Aug. 9, ATV-5 at 9:02 p.m. across the north with the ISS at 9:46 p.m. across the north.

How to watch the space station and cargo ship play hide-and-seek

ATV-5 (George Lemaitre) will dock with the ISS using a sophisticated laser system on August 12. Between now and then you can watch it track along with the space station in both the morning and evening sky. Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

The Georges Lemaitre cargo ship successfully launched on a 14-day journey to the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday. Starting tomorrow morning you can watch it chase the space station around the sky for the next two weeks.

The ship is Europe’s fifth and final automated transfer vehicle (ATV-5) for hauling materials to the station. It’s also the heaviest craft ever launched by the European Space Agency and has the biggest cargo space.

ATV-3 docking animation created from 70 hi res ATV-3 images. NASA/ESA

The ship will transport 1,257 pounds (570 kg) of water, 220 pounds (100 kg) of gas (air and oxygen), 4,916 pounds (2,230 kg) of propellants to use for ISS reboosts, additional propellant for the Russian portion of the space station, science equipment and food.

After the astronauts unload all the goodies, the ship will be filled with trash and sent back to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. A special infrared camera inside the craft will take pictures of the burning hull during the fiery reentry and send them to a waiting satellite for re-transmission to Earth.

While the agency will wrap up its supply trips to the ISS, it’s will re-purpose the ATV service module to participate in NASA’s Orion mission, which will ultimately send astronaut crews to the moon, Mars and asteroids.

The International Space Station is currently making passes over the U.S. and Canada during early morning twilight. This map, taken from Heavens Above, shows its path across the sky tomorrow morning July 31 from the Duluth, Minn. region. Starting August 2, the ISS will also appear in the evening sky. Source: Chris Peat/Heavens Above

Because ATV-5 will take its time arriving at the space station, we’ll have lots of chances to see it ‘chasing’ the ISS around the sky. For my region (Duluth, Minn.) for instance, the station glides from west to east across the sky between 4:18 – 4:25 a.m. tomorrow following a nearly identical path.

ATV-5 shows up in the sky about 5 minutes after the space station bows out tomorrow morning. It will shine at magnitude 0.7, the same as a bright star but not nearly the brilliance of the much larger ISS. Source: Chris Peat/Heavens-Above

Five minutes later, Georges Lemaitre’s namesake zips by at 4:30 a.m. Although the ISS and ATV-5 lie at opposite sides of the sky right now, as docking time draws near on August 12, they’ll be neck in neck – a very cool sight!

ATV-4 passes over the W of Cassiopeia in this time exposure taken on June 8, 2013. The ATVs range in brightness from magnitude 0 (brightest) to 3. Credit: Bob King

Good news too for those who don’t like getting up at dawn. Both ships will begin making convenient evening passes starting this Saturday August 2 and continuing through late August.

To find out where and when to look to track both the ISS and ATV-5, go to Heavens-Above, sign in and select the ISS and ATV-5 links under Satellites. You’ll next be shown a table with times, brightness, directions, etc. for a series of dates. Click on the date of your choice to get a map of the sky showing the object’s path. What could be easier?

Georges Lemaitre was a Belgium Catholic priest, physicist and astronomer. In 1927 he discovered that Einstein’s equations implied an expanding universe. Credit: Wiki

I like that ESA has named the ATV series after famous scientists and a science fiction writer. It gives the machines a little personality. It started with ‘Jules Verne’ (ATV-1), then Johannes Kepler (ATV-2), Edoardo Amaldi (ATV-3), Albert Einstein (ATV-4) and finally Georges Lemaitre (ATV-5).

Lemaitre originated the whole idea of the Big Bang. He argued that if the galaxies were receding into the distance in an expanding universe, they must once have been scrunched together in one unimaginably tiny space he called the ‘primeval atom’ or ‘cosmic egg’.

A comely cometary coincidence / New camera to record cargo ship’s fiery reentry

In this happy alignment, perfectly composed and exposed by Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri, Comet Jacques pairs up with IC 405, the Flaming Star Nebula on July 26. The comet will be visible in binoculars now until the moon returns to brighten the sky around August 8. Credit: Rolando Ligustri

A stunning photo! It’s comet C/2014 E2 Jacques, tail as straight as a Q-tip, forming a cosmic question mark with the glowing cloud of hydrogen gas called the Flaming Star Nebula. Two tails stand out. The one reaching beyond the frame is made of carbon monoxide gas fluorescing in the sun’s ultraviolet light. To the left of the bright head a meeker dust tail shines by reflected sunlight.

This close-up photo taken July 25 reveals that the glowing gas tail (right) is made of multiple streamers. Heat from the sun vaporizes ices which stream back to form a comet’s tails. Credit: Damian Peach

The nebula’s 1,500 light years away in the direction of the constellation Auriga the Charioteer, while Jacques plies the solar system just 112 million miles from Earth. Discovered by a group of Brazilian amateur astronomers last March, a study of its orbit hinted it might wax bright enough to see with binoculars after making its closest approach to the sun in late May.

That’s exactly what happened, and you can see it right now – assuming you’re willing to rise at 4 a.m. – low in the northeastern sky just before the start of morning twilight. I caught it in 8×40 and 10×50 binoculars Saturday from home. No tail stood out but the comet’s head looked like a small, fuzzy spot compared to the sharp points of nearby stars. Through a telescope I saw a dense, bright cotton ball and hint of a tail.

Follow Jacques in a small telescope or binoculars in its travels across Auriga into Perseus during the next two weeks. Comet positions are shown for 4 a.m. CDT every 5 days. Stars to magnitude +8.0. Click to enlarge. Source: Chris Marriott’s SkyMap

Comet Jacques glows at magnitude 6.5 and will remain about that bright through early August. Because the comet’s moving up and away from the sun, it’s getting higher in the east and easier to see with each passing morning.

If you need another reason to arise so early, the International Space Station will light your path all this week and next. Head over to Heavens-Above and click on the ISS link to get times for passes over your city. Simultaneous evening passes begin on or around August 2.

The last of the European Space Agency’s five automated space freighters, ATV-5, is being prepared for launch to the ISS on Tuesday, July 29. Named “Georges Lemaître” in honor of the Belgian astronomer who first proposed the idea of the Big Bang, the ship will ferry six tons of supplies including lots of drinking water and food to the astronauts. If there’s an opportunity to see it ‘chase’ the space station, I’ll provide an update.

Artist’s view of ATV-5’s destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. A special camera will record the scene from inside. Copyright: ESA–D. Ducros

ATV-5 is the last of the European cargo ships and will burn up like the others during atmospheric reentry once its mission is complete. But this one ends with a twist. The fiery burn-up and disintegration will be recorded from the inside by a unique infrared camera. Before the camera becomes toast, it will transmit the images to a ‘black box’ called the Reentry SatCom, a spherical capsule protected by a heatshield. The SatCom will relay the data to a nearby Iridium satellite and from there back to mission control. Can’t wait to see that video!

‘Hello World’ laser message from space jazzes NASA

Frame from the ‘Hello World’ video sent on June 5, 2014 from the space station to Table Mountain using a laser instead of radio waves. Credit: NASA

Scientists are calling it the difference between dial-up and DSL. On June 5, the International Space Station passed over Table Mountain Observatory near Los Angeles, California and beamed an HD video to researchers waiting below.  Unlike normal data transmissions, which are broadcast on radio waves, this one came packaged in a beam of laser light.

“It was incredible to see this magnificent beam of light arriving from our tiny payload on the space station,” says Matt Abrahamson, who manages the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


Click to watch the ‘Hello World’ video beamed from the ISS

The 148-second movie titled ‘Hello World’, which you can watch above, demonstrated how sending data by modulating a laser signal is SO much faster than using radio waves. It took all of 3.5 seconds to transmit a single copy of the video message, which would have taken more than 10 minutes using traditional methods.

Because the space station zips around the Earth so quickly, a laser was directed from the ground to the station. Once ‘locked in’, astronauts could fire the 2.5 watt encoded laser beam in the return direction. Credit: NASA

But there was some fancy footing involved in making sure the message arrived on target from the space station. Imagine how tricky it would be to aim a narrow laser beam at a ground station while traveling at 17,500 mph (28,000 km/hr). To accomplish the feat, a laser at Table Mountain illuminated the space station while the OPALS unit sent its own 2.5 watt encoded laser signal right back in the same direction carrying the HD video.

At left: Illustration showing the 2.5 watt OPALS laser beaming video to Earth. At right, the laser beam arrives from the ISS as seen on the computer monitor at Table Mountain Observatory. Credit: NASA

There’s an enormous amount of data in space transmissions – just think of the reams of photographs – making lasers a far faster alternative to getting those data to the scientists and public who crave them.

Prepare for sleepless nights – space station marathon starts this week!

The International Space Station cuts across sky and clouds alike in this time exposure image. Starting later this week, the station will be in continuous sunlight and be visible on passes all night long. Credit: Bob King

I love watching the space station. It’s the brightest satellite and makes frequent passes. It’s also unique. Most satellites are either spent rocket stages or unmanned science and surveillance probes. The ISS is inhabited by a crew of astronauts. Real people. Every time I see that bright, moving light I think of them up there taking pictures of ‘down here’, performing experiments, cracking jokes and pondering the meaning of it all while staring out the panoramic cupola windows.

The ISS’s orbit is inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator and passes overhead for anyone living between 51.6 degrees north and 51.6 degrees south latitude. It’s visible well beyond this zone also but never passes through the zenith.

Diagram showing the Earth in late May when the space station’s orbital track is closely aligned with the day-night terminator. The astronauts see the sun 24-hours a day (midnight sun effect) while we on the ground get to watch repeated passes. Credit: Bob King

Most of the time we get one easy-to-see bright pass preceded or followed by a fainter partial pass. ‘Partials’ occur when the space station glides into Earth’s shadow and disappears from view during an appearance. But in late May-early June each year, the space station’s orbit and Earth’s day-night terminator nearly align. From the astronauts’ viewpoint, it’s the time of the midnight sun. From down on the planet between latitudes 40-55 degrees north, the ISS remains in sunlight during every single 90 minute pass.


In late May-early June near the summer solstice, the sun doesn’t set on the International Space Station

Instead of once or twice a night, we’ll see 4-5 passes starting about May 30. For instance, on May 31 from Duluth, Minn. we’re graced with four appearances at 12:12 a.m, 1:44 a.m., 3:20 a.m. and 11:23 p.m. The best nights are June 4 and 6 with five passes. By the 10th, the ISS ‘marathon’ winds down and we return to 2-3 passes a night.

The ISS always appears in the western sky first, rising up contrary to the movement of the stars, and traveling to the east. Low altitude passes put a lot of lateral distance between you and the station, making them fainter. Not by much though. Even on a low arc, the ISS shines as bright as Vega. Overhead passes means the ISS is as close as it can get – straight up at about 250 miles away. When you get one of those, the station’s only a magnitude shy of the planet Venus and absolutely stunning.

The ISS is huge – about the size of a pro football field – and consists of many separate modules linked together like a colossal Tinkertoy creation. Large solar panels power the station. Credit: NASA

If you closely watch the ISS as it moves against the starry sky, it will appear to move jerkily. This would be very bad orbital maneuvering if true. What you’re really seeing are your own jerky eye movements transposed on the sky. Some of my favorite passes are those when the space station fades from view mid-track as it passes into Earth’s shadow. I always keep binoculars handy for these passes so I can watch the station turn orange and red as it experience one of its many orbital sunsets. Try it sometime.

There are many ways to find out when the ISS will pass over your city. My favorite are the listings in Heavens-Above. Login with your city and you’ll see a complete list with links to create maps of the station’s track across the sky. There’s also Spaceweather’s Satellite Flyby tracker. Type in your zip code and hit enter. Couldn’t be easier. You can also have NASA send you an e-mail when the most favorable (highest, brightest) passes occur by adding your e-mail to the Spot the Station site. Be aware though that you won’t be notified on some of the less favorable passes.

Well, I’m going to prep for the marathon. Eat lots of pasta you know and keep a favorite beverage handy. See you in spirit on the course.