A rare treat is in store for the eastern US tonight, should the cold front clear the clouds and rain in time. A rather high elevation flyover of the International Space Station between 10:18 PM and 10:24 PM on July 30, 2015. This allows for 6 minutes to view the ISS travel almost directly overhead. The elevation will be 71 degrees (90 degrees would be directly over us). The flight path will be over Cuba, The Bahamas, and Bermuda, so it will be edged just to our east. The competition with the full moon is more than just headlines, but lighting. The moon reaches full brightness on Friday morning, but it will be close enough to be considered that illumination. It is also the blue moon, which has nothing to do with the color but rather the timing of the second such lunar phase this month.
Below I’ve compiled answers to frequently asked questions about where to look, what you might see, suggested camera settings to photograph, and even two event maps that show different flyover paths but still have Baltimore in sight.
What you ‘may’ see:
The ISS is orbiting between 205 and 270 miles above the ground. It makes a complete orbit around Earth 15 times a day, traveling at 4.76 miles/second. Top speed is 17,150 mph. It has lights and also catches sunlight at that altitude that can filter through or around the atmosphere. But these will not blink, so you will know it is NOT an airplane if the light remains steady.
With a basic telescope or binoculars you might be able to see the solar panels. But if you plan to take a photo, the low light and high speed will likely make for a blurry image. The best camera settings advice I’ve seen:
- Nikon D7000
- Orion 10″ Dobsonian telescope
- 2x Barlow lens
- Nikon mount for the telescope eyepiece/focuser
- Remote trigger
Settings: Manual Mode – 1/200sec at 800 ISO, unsure of the aperture of the telescope with the barlow.
Where to look?
This graphic based on Baltimore for timing, but the locations will work for much of the eastern US. If you are in the southeast, subtract a few minutes. The northeast, add another minute or two. Again, the clouds must clear for you to see it. It will start just west of due south and finish just east of due north.
Position you body to the east, where the sun rises at your location. In this position, the path will be from your right then almost overhead, finishing on your left.
- Starting at 10:18 PM
- Peak at 10:22 PM
- Finish: 10:24 PM
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Mapping is a little confusing:
This view is what I found with my tracker along with isstracker.com. However another viewer shown in the image below, maps the path through Maryland. Regardless, the elevation, positioning, and timing are accurate.
*Map generated by issviewer.net for this flyover path
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