Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jupiter and Venus and ISS (Toronto)

Fired up the BBQ this evening so to grill a steak. Noticed it was clear to the west. Peeked around the neighbours houses to see Venus 20° above the horizon and Jupiter now about 7° away. That was around 5:30. Very pretty. Looking forward to seeing the Moon join the pair in a week.

As I started to savour the steak, I noticed an email on the RASC Toronto Centre listserv from Randy. OK, OK, I was eating at the computer. I admit it.

Randy said there'd be a flyover at 6:01 with the International Space Station (and attached Space Shuttle) with the path near Vega. Cool. 15 minutes to go. I checked Heavens Above to check the starting point and the maximum brightness (-2.2). I headed out at about 5:55 to get my bearings.

There were more clouds now. Fortunately thin and wispy. I didn't think they'd interfere.

Picked up Vega but none of the stars of Lyra. I could see some of Cygnus: Deneb, Sadr in the middle, Gienah to the left, δ (delta) to the right with averted vision. It took me a moment to rotate my mental field. The bright star 45° up in the south-west I realised was Altair. I could see Tarazed to the right easily and Alshain to the left with averted. There was a lesser star about 45° to the left of Altair (later learned it was Enif). As I was looking at this area, I saw a brightening and fading. No movement. An Iridium? It was about 2/3 of the way from Altair to Enif. No idea what that was...

I positioned so that I could Jupiter above and Venus below the neighbour's arbour, the street light at the end of the driveway wasn't in my vision, and I had a good open vista of the south-western sky. And I waited.

The ISS appeared low in the west. I caught it out of the corner of my eye. It was about 15° up. Further to the north than I was expecting. I was expecting SWS but this was WSW. It rose up between Cygnus and Lyra. Between about 50 and 60 degrees it started to brighten. And it went way up, way way up! I still don't know my magnitudes well but that was way more than -2. It was brighter than Venus. Near zenith, it faded back to a magnitude equivalent to before the peak. As it moved into Casseiopeia, an aircraft overtook it. Interesting, the differences in perceived speed. As it moved into Auriga it faded rapidly.

That was a great pass!

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