Space viewing highlights from 15 May – including a rare Soyuz challenge

By 15 May, 2012 17

I mentioned two weeks ago about passes of the International Space Station over the Canberra area this week. I didn’t get this ready in time for Monday’s pass though sorry. However we a rare treat coming up this week.

The Soyuz spaceship will also be visible as it chases down the ISS, while taking the next crew up. Soyuz launches today (Tuesday 15 May) at 1.01pm. You can watch the launch live streamed here. It will then be visible each dusk until Thursday.

The ISS had a beautiful bright pass Monday evening. The early clouds moved away and left the sky surprisingly clear. The ISS appeared exactly as I stepped out of the office – clear and as bright as Venus. The longest pass remaining this week of the ISS will be Wednesday. Clear nights are forecast, so set your alarm in your phone so you don’t miss them.

LOCAL DURATION MAX ELEV APPROACH DEPARTURE
DATE/TIME (MIN) (DEG) (DEG-DIR) (DEG-DIR)

ISS:

Tue May 15/06:26 PM 2 37 27 above W 26 above S
Wed May 16/05:33 PM 4 81 45 above WNW 11 above SE
Wed May 16/07:09 PM < 1 11 10 above SW 11 above SW
Thu May 17/06:15 PM 3 19 15 above WSW 12 above S
Sat May 19/06:03 PM 2 11 10 above SW 10 above S
Soyuz:
Tue May 15/06:12 PM 2 44 31 above W 25 above SSE
Wed May 16/06:09 PM 2 23 18 above WSW 16 above S
Thu May 17/06:15 PM 3 19 15 above WSW 12 above S

Wednesday should be passable for taking a time-lapse photo. But you’ll need to be shooting as it goes away from you to the east rather than as it comes towards as the western sky will probably still be too light for a long exposure.

To take these you need a wider angle lens rather than telephoto, a tripod and a cable release. Set the camera on bulb and aperture to small so the picture doesn’t get overwhelmed with ambient light. In these shots I took a few weeks back, I included some landscape for a frame of reference, plus Mars and Regulus. Still learning though, and they are a bit dark.

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17 Responses to Space viewing highlights from 15 May – including a rare Soyuz challenge
#1
Vegemite2:12 pm, 15 May 12

This is great – thanks Gungahlin Al. Do I need any particular equipment to view Soyuz and the ISS or can you see these things with the naked eye?

#2
Gungahlin Al4:32 pm, 15 May 12

Vegemite said :

This is great – thanks Gungahlin Al. Do I need any particular equipment to view Soyuz and the ISS or can you see these things with the naked eye?

Vegemite I’m not sure about the Soyuz brightness sorry. But the ISS will be -2.0 tonight (quite bright) and -3.2 tomorrow (outstandingly bright – more than Venus).
Note some updated times from http://heavens-above.com (they do change a little – the atmosphere swells up and slows the craft sometimes):

Date Brightness Start Highest point End
(mag) Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
15 May -2.0 18:24:57 10° WNW 18:28:01 35° SW 18:29:32 22° SSE
16 May -3.2 17:30:37 10° NW 17:33:53 77° SW 17:37:11 10° SE
16 May -0.4 19:09:28 10° SW 19:10:21 12° SSW 19:10:21 12° SSW
17 May -1.0 18:13:58 10° WSW 18:16:21 18° SSW 18:18:32 11° SSE
19 May -0.6 18:03:46 10° SW 18:04:45 11° SSW 18:05:44 10° S

You’ll see the ISS clear as a bell even with some dusk light – no equipment. You should also see Soyuz when the sky is dark.

I’ve managed to track the ISS in our telescope (it’s fast!) and you can actually see the shape of the solar sails. The Soyuz is much smaller and I’ll be happy just to eyeball it.

#3
melon12346:42 pm, 15 May 12

Thanks for the heads up Gungahlin Al. Just witnessed the ISS whizzing overhead tonight. Despite your own caveat, I was still quite surprised at just how fast it was. Wasn’t able to pick the Soyuz by the naked eye, but I think I may have been out on my timings.

I shall try again tomorrow!

#4
poetix7:52 pm, 15 May 12

So which way is south, Al? (-:

#5
Gungahlin Al10:03 pm, 15 May 12

Of course one bit of kit that could be useful would be an ACME giant cloud removal fan…
Glad you got a peak Melon although I don’t know how – completely clouded out as I rode home.
Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

poetix said :

So which way is south, Al? (-:

If it’s a joke I missed it.
Look at where the sun went down. Hold your left arm out. Thattaway. Ish.

#6
Vegemite1:28 pm, 16 May 12

I didn’t see anything last night but it was definitely cloudy down south. So am I reading it correctly that tonight it will be SW so if I am in Gungahlin looking towards the town centre, just above the horizon it should appear?

#7
Deref2:08 pm, 16 May 12

:-) Great stuff – thanks Al! Could you make this a regular item?

#8
Gungahlin Al4:26 pm, 16 May 12

Vegemite said :

I didn’t see anything last night but it was definitely cloudy down south. So am I reading it correctly that tonight it will be SW so if I am in Gungahlin looking towards the town centre, just above the horizon it should appear?

Really not sure what way you are pointing…! Just fire up the compass app on your phone. Or – as I said yesterday – face the setting sun and turn 45 degrees to your left. That is SW. Or near enough for the purpose.

Deref: sure will try as I can fit things in. Or you can subscribe to or get the RSS feed from my blog. Or that autoposts to my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts. There’s a few options… :)

Now – about the SpaceX Dragon launch to the ISS on Saturday night. And the “Ring of Fire” full solar eclipse on Sunday… So much happening this week in space geekdom…

Get a little out of the town centre away from lights if you can. Although Monday night demonstrated that slap bang in the middle of Civic was bright as.

#9
Gungahlin Al4:28 pm, 16 May 12

Oh – and the latest prediction has the Soyux pass one minute earlier now – 6:08.
Lastly – did you notice that both the ISS and Soyuz tomorrow are at the same time and start location? Yep – it will have almost caught up. Now there’s a photo op…

#10
breda6:24 pm, 16 May 12

Thanks Al!

#11
aronde6:56 pm, 16 May 12

Yes thanks for the heads up Al. Took the kids to Mt Ainslie tonight to watch the ISS and it was very good!

#12
Gungahlin Al3:16 pm, 17 May 12

Quick reminder about the Space Station viewing opportunity tonight:
-1.0 18:13:58 10° WSW 18:16:21 18° SSW 18:18:32 11° SSE
Soyuz docked about 20 minutes ago so the two will cross together.
Twitter users can get personalised updates and reminders of these crosses by following @twisst

And thanks for the feedback on last night. It was a beautiful bright crossing – sliced straight through the Southern Cross. Could not find Soyuz during it’s crossing though. Was laying in the middle of the Harrison Sports Fields to try get away from light pollution, but to no avail – too much light spill from streetlights on steroids.

PS: forget what I said yesterday on the annular eclipse – after more checking realised it is northern hemisphere visible only. But the transit of Venus is coming soon, and my camera-to-telescope adapter and solar filter film for the telescope arrived this morning…

#13
Deref7:08 pm, 17 May 12

Good view of it tonight!

#14
poetix8:00 pm, 17 May 12

I do hope someone will post a photo. My chances of remembering AND finding a direction in less than an hour are non-existent. (It was an embarrassed smile Al, not a joke.)

#15
yellowsnow8:29 pm, 17 May 12

poetix said :

I do hope someone will post a photo. My chances of remembering AND finding a direction in less than an hour are non-existent. (It was an embarrassed smile Al, not a joke.)

+1.

I’ve forgotten to go out and have a look every night this week, despite making a mental note to do it. D’oh!

#16
Gungahlin Al7:24 pm, 18 May 12

yellowsnow said :

poetix said :

I do hope someone will post a photo. My chances of remembering AND finding a direction in less than an hour are non-existent. (It was an embarrassed smile Al, not a joke.)

+1.

I’ve forgotten to go out and have a look every night this week, despite making a mental note to do it. D’oh!

Yeah I am hopeless on the mental note thing too. Set an alarm in your smartphone. Go out and fire up the compass app. Laughing. Assuming you are part of the 50+% of Australians who have switched from dumbphones? Other than that and the general direction where the sun went down and left a bit, I’m not sure how else I can point you the right way. Perhaps this – towards the Brindabella Mountains?

I was pretty disappointed with yesterday’s pass – quite faint and drowned out by ambient light. Light pollution in Canberra is really shocking – particularly in our newer suburbs.
(If I achieve nothing else during this ACT election campaign, it will be to draw attention to the light pollution problem and get something done about the streetlights that LDA and TaMS are installing/requiring. Not to mention the crazy waste of electricity/$$ lighting the sky for no good reason…)

Next big thing in the night sky is the transit of Venus. So book a day off on Wednesday 6 June. First touches at 08:16, finishes at 14:44. Get some eclipse glasses for $4 from http://iceinspace.com.au or http://ozscopes.com.au or just knock up a quick pinhole observer: http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how.html

#17
poetix8:40 pm, 18 May 12

Gungahlin Al said :

yellowsnow said :

poetix said :

I do hope someone will post a photo. My chances of remembering AND finding a direction in less than an hour are non-existent. (It was an embarrassed smile Al, not a joke.)

+1.

I’ve forgotten to go out and have a look every night this week, despite making a mental note to do it. D’oh!

Yeah I am hopeless on the mental note thing too. Set an alarm in your smartphone. Go out and fire up the compass app. Laughing. Assuming you are part of the 50+% of Australians who have switched from dumbphones? Other than that and the general direction where the sun went down and left a bit, I’m not sure how else I can point you the right way. Perhaps this – towards the Brindabella Mountains?

I was pretty disappointed with yesterday’s pass – quite faint and drowned out by ambient light. Light pollution in Canberra is really shocking – particularly in our newer suburbs.
(If I achieve nothing else during this ACT election campaign, it will be to draw attention to the light pollution problem and get something done about the streetlights that LDA and TaMS are installing/requiring. Not to mention the crazy waste of electricity/$$ lighting the sky for no good reason…)

Next big thing in the night sky is the transit of Venus. So book a day off on Wednesday 6 June. First touches at 08:16, finishes at 14:44. Get some eclipse glasses for $4 from http://iceinspace.com.au or http://ozscopes.com.au or just knock up a quick pinhole observer: http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how.html

Thank you. That’s very kind. It must be hard for some people to imagine the life of a person whose mind closes down at a table of numbers. Especially when they refer to directions. Pity the innumerates. (I’m not saying you are innumerate, yellowsnow, but I most certainly am.)

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