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Space station visible during next 6 days


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POSTED: Saturday, July 04, 2009

With clear skies, islanders will be able to see the International Space Station as it orbits about 220 miles above the earth beginning tomorrow night—the first of six bright passes over six days.

The station will pass overhead at about 8:50 p.m. and will be “;extremely bright—as bright as Jupiter is now,”; said Mike Shanahan, Bishop Museum education director and planetarium manager. “;The space station will move very slowly against the background of stars and should be easy to find.”;

Three of the passes will be before sunrise, with Venus, Mars and Jupiter all visible.

“;The space station will be brighter than Jupiter—like a headlight in the sky,”; Shanahan said.

On Tuesday the space station will pass directly in front of Venus around 5:23 a.m., with Mars close by.

And on Friday it will pass below Jupiter and a nearly full moon.

Satellites are only visible two hours after sunset and two hours before sunrise, Shanahan said.

“;They have to be in darkness on earth but catch the light of the sun,”; he said. “;There are only two windows when they are visible.”;

NASA said many locations will have unusually long sighting opportunities—as much as five minutes—as the station flies directly overhead.

The space station is the largest spacecraft ever built and the most reflective, appearing as “;a solid, glowing light,”; the space agency said.

It is moving too fast for conventional telescopes, but binoculars can improve the view and even show some detail of the station's structure, NASA said.

The station, which circles Earth every 90 minutes, is 357 feet long, “;about the length of a football field including the end zones, and 45 feet tall.”;

It has reflective solar arrays that are 240 feet wide, a wingspan greater than that of a jumbo jet and a total surface area of more than 38,000 square feet, said NASA.

Six astronauts from the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan are conducting research on the station.

More information is available at www.heavens-above.com and www.nasa.gov/station.