See the Shuttle and ISS together (kinda) tonight!

Contributed by
Dec 19, 2006

Tonight, you may get a chance to see something in the sky that is extremely cool: the Space Shuttle as it pulls away from the space station.

Either one of these objects is easily visible from the ground if they happen to pass overhead. Both together are somewhat brighter. But in this case, if you time it correctly, you might see them as two separate dots traversing the sky in tandem!

The Shuttle undocks at 5:09 p.m. Eastern time. After that, they will slowly separate. Without knowing how quickly they separate it's hard to say how long it will take before you can resolve them into individual objects, but any time after that is worth a shot.

To see them, go to Heavens Above. Enter your longitude and latitude (it has help for you to get them). Then when it's all set up, just click on the ISS link under "Satellites". It will give you the details for the next few passes.

For me, it will pass at 6:05 tonight local time. It won't get too high up, only 33 degrees over the horizon (1/3 of the way to the zenith) but my horizon is clear in that direction. That'll be four hours after the Shuttle undocks (I am in Pacific time) so I should see them as distinctly separate dots moving across the sky.

Too cool. If you get a chance to see it, post a comment. And if you get images (I'll try to get some tonight) post them on the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today bulletin board!

Tip of the spacesuit helmet to my old bud Rob Roy Britt from

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