View Full Version : Space shuttle spotting- any tips?

10th Dec 2007, 17:06
Got the charts from NASA, found a dark lane, clear sky, took kid & dog. Saw now't:{:{:{

Am I missing something:confused: (Apart from a life:))

(Was forcast to be seen at about 13 degrees, at 5.18pm, think it may have been too low to be seen with recent set sky?) and is it local time?

10th Dec 2007, 17:10
Were you looking for the Shuttle (which is still on the ground at Cape Kennedy or Canaveral whatever) or the ISS?

Also make allowances for any hills that might lie in the direction of your view (we are sat down in a valley).

10th Dec 2007, 17:11
Best tip is wait till it's launched Ginge.:)

10th Dec 2007, 17:15
If you have cable, go to Nasa channel and watch it still sitting on the launch pad. If you want to watch it in the sky, then wait till January but I would take some blankets with you, its a bit cold right now to be standing in the lane.

10th Dec 2007, 17:19
You can find NASA TV here Ginge:

tony draper
10th Dec 2007, 17:23
This is the best website for time of Shuttle ISS transit times in the UK.
Buggah!! just missed the ISS transit,ideal night forrit as well

10th Dec 2007, 17:38
Tony, that's the one I got, it said the space shuttle was due over at 05.18pm. (At the bottom of the page)

All wasn't lost, managed to convince the kids that the easyjet going into John Lennon could have been the shuttle:)

10th Dec 2007, 21:10
That's for the ISS, not the Shuttle (except when they're docked), so it should work. It worked for me when I tried it a few years ago. Watch out for the elevation, though - a maximum elevation of 10 degrees means it's barely above the horizon.

There's a great free program for tracking satellites graphically: Satscape (http://www.satscape.co.uk/).

10th Dec 2007, 21:12
Space shuttle spotting- any tips? a good place to start is the sky.

10th Dec 2007, 21:20
And at night (or can it be seen in a clear blue sky in daylight?).

tony draper
10th Dec 2007, 21:54
They are visable just for a hour or so after sunset because they like all satellites are illuminated by same,the sun is below our horizon but they being at high altitude are still being shone upon,
I did once see the ISS with the Russian Soyus craft a short distance behind it.

Howard Hughes
10th Dec 2007, 22:13
a good place to start is the sky.
Or Florida...;)

11th Dec 2007, 08:11
Thanks chaps, I'll be back there tonight:)

11th Dec 2007, 11:26
I'd also try heavens-above (http://www.heavens-above.com). It will also tell you of any visible Iridium Flares, which are good for the kids to see [bright light moving relatively quickly that eventually just winks out as it goes past and out of the sunlight].

11th Dec 2007, 14:04
Thanks for the link, flask of coffee, gloves and wooly hat at the ready:)

tony draper
11th Dec 2007, 15:07
No need, it transits in about half a minute, looking good for tonight,incidentally its's nine seconds past five tonight, scan from the south to west incline yer noggin about thirty degree back, its brightness varies quite a bit as well but it is quite obvious as a moving dot of light.
Don't bother waving stuck up buggas never wave back.

11th Dec 2007, 15:52
and its as clear as a bell down here.

tony draper
11th Dec 2007, 16:14
Oh Dear! much apologies,twer nine minutes after five,saw very clear here twer very bright when it got due south of me,if you missed it its back at 6.43.

11th Dec 2007, 16:19
gonnat ry and make the 6.43 but a bit cloudy here in Manchester. :)

tony draper
11th Dec 2007, 17:52
Watched it again skies not as clear as it was earlier, only visible for about ten seconds as it rose over the rooftop opposite then it either moved into cloud or the Earths shadow,came up further north this pass.

11th Dec 2007, 19:17
think there was too much gunsmoke drifting South from Manchester:)

there's allwys tommorrow.

Seen any other satelites?

11th Dec 2007, 19:31
Clear view here at 17.09. Could almost see the extended shape (not just a point of light). 'Spooky' to think of the crew going round and round and round and round without any engines keeping them aloft.

11th Dec 2007, 21:49
Seconded on heavens-above as the best site for space nerdery. It'll "remember" your location if you want it to, give you sightings for all visible sats, not just Shuttle / ISS, and shows a ground plot of the pass which makes it much easier to figure out where to look.

12th Dec 2007, 08:07
You can with the right equipment catch some pretty good images of Space Shuttle etc.

E.g. A Meade LX200 Scope and appropiate software/hardware etc, can take some pretty amazing images of ISS and Shuttle.




A lot of money to put up, but if you use it regularly and have an interest in astronomy its well worth it.

12th Dec 2007, 18:58
I have Satscape (http://www.satscape.co.uk/) telling me I have a good chance of an ISS sighting tomorrow evening, from 17:47-57. Max elevation of 60 degrees at 17:52. All I need now is a clear sky, a rarity here in Dublin. :hmm:

tony draper
12th Dec 2007, 19:05
UK Transits 4.18 and 5.52 PM tomorrow night,forgot about it tonight but bro watched the transit at 5.30 he said it was very bright.

13th Dec 2007, 15:54
Despite a clear sky (though with a young Moon in the middle of the anticipated track) I failed to see anything of the 4.17pm pass.
Thu Dec 13/04:17 PM . . . 3 . . . 26 . . . 22 above SSW . . . 12 above ESE
What does the '22 above SSW' mean? I understand SSW, where does the 22 degrees feature?

13th Dec 2007, 16:03
I think its degrees above the horizon, 0deg=horizon, looking straight above = 90degrees.

So your sighting would be low in the sky.

Try again tonight (Starts) 17:50 10o W: (Ends) 17:53 52 degrees SE, Magnitude -2.1 (Bright)

13th Dec 2007, 16:08
That fair enough, but I would think that the track would start at the horizon (or zero degrees at sea) - or does it pop out of a hole in the sky?

13th Dec 2007, 16:13
Think it depends on reflecting the sun, so although it technically does pop up at the horizon, don't think you can visualise it until everything's all lined up- and by the same rule, it becomes invisible when shadowed by the earth.

I'm only guessing:)

tony draper
13th Dec 2007, 16:14
Sky was still to bright to see it at 4.18 here,twer crystal clear but didn't see it at all.:cool:
If its low on your horizon your looking through a layer of murk toward it,the higher it is in the sky the brighter it appears.

13th Dec 2007, 17:04
It's just passed over us in NW Surrey.

Third night running we have seen it.



13th Dec 2007, 17:20
Did see it pass overhead (well high up) but then it just 'disappeared' (presumably entered the Earth's shadow) so perhaps the 39 degrees was the cut-off point (I didn't see it 'arrive' - though it's equally possible that it might not have been visible from the horizon . . . - and it was only scheduled to be visible for one minute).
ISS Thu Dec 13/05:52 PM . . . 1 . . . 41 . . . 29 above SW . . . 39 above SSE

(from:- http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/cities/view.cgi?country=United_Kingdom&region=England&city=Newcastle )

13th Dec 2007, 18:46
Guess what?

I've flipping seen it:)

13th Dec 2007, 18:51
Were you able to see that it was more than just a single 'spot'? (I suppose that depends on your long-vision as well as the clarity of the atmosphere.)
A couple of nights back it certainly looked like an 'H' to me (though I couldn't have accurately drawn it).

tony draper
13th Dec 2007, 18:56
Hmmm, when was watching for it tonight there was aircraft on approach to Newcastle I suppose, had its headlights on very bright, you can see them approaching from the west for a long time,was wondering if the chaps in the shuttle can see aircraft below em.
Caught a satellite in the field of a ten inch Newtonian once,was able to track it as well, still just a point source of light,think you would need a fairly high magnification to see any kind of structure or more then just a dot of light,I mean how big is the ISS 100 feet?summat that size at 120 miles subtends a very small angle.

13th Dec 2007, 19:35
Fully assembled, the ISS will be 108 by 74 metres.

By the end of 2007, the station's solar panels will extend to almost three-quarters of an acre of surface area.

I was viewing it by naked eye only, but the brightness of the ends 'gave the impression' of two distinct closely located items

13th Dec 2007, 19:49
Not been following this thread.

However, there I was wandering around a 330 at MAN gazing up at the wing (PDI hat on) and this bright blob zooms across the sky, moments later fading and disappearing. I wondered at the time if it was the ISS.
PPRUNE once again surpasses the encyclopedia galactica as the font of all knowledge and wisdom. :ok:

13th Dec 2007, 19:53
Was it cleared?

tony draper
13th Dec 2007, 20:08
Didn't some people once claim they could see the moons of Jupiter? now that would be good long sight.:rolleyes:
err with the naked eye one might add.

13th Dec 2007, 20:08
Was it cleared?

I think the Man in the Moon has filed an air prox. :E

13th Dec 2007, 20:19
As a child I could read the maker's name on the eye charts.
I couldn't understand why, as my father got older, his arms became too short for him to read the newspaper, but when I too reached the same age I found that my arms were no longer long enough for me to read . . . (presbyopia)

tony draper
13th Dec 2007, 20:30
I still have very good long sight but anything closer than two feet is now a blur,loss of depth of field I believe it's called,happened gradually,out in the field I used to have to solder a lot of multi cores to rs 232 multi pin plugs,first I used to carry a 40 watt inspection light and hang it above the job,then it was a sixty watt, then a 100 watt jobby,still didn't notice,then bro bought some of those fifty pence reading glasses from the chemist and I tried em on,it were a revelation,one ran about shouting "its a miracle I can see again"
Thus do the decades creep up on one.:(

14th Dec 2007, 15:20
Lovely clear (freezing) crisp weather - ideal for ISS-viewing at 16.39 (over Newcastle). 3 minutes from 32 above SSW to 12 above ESE maximum elevation 36 degrees.

14th Dec 2007, 15:42
Several years ago I saw this wierd bright thing in the sky one night. Turns out it was the shuttle with some massive long arm sticking out of it doing a topographical survey. It must have been a very low orbit, you could even see the span of the arm, and puffs from course correction jets. It must be strange being upside down all the time facing the earth, a bit like flying in the southern hemisphere. At which point do planes invert, is it like the coriolis effect and happens at the equator? If planes stayed bottom side to the earth all the way down, all the blood would surely rush to your head when you were down under.

14th Dec 2007, 16:14
It must be strange being upside down all the time facing the earth, a bit like flying in the southern hemisphere. At which point do planes invert,I suspect that once a device has 'escaped' from the Earth's gravitational effect, then it is free to 'float' at whatever attitude it was at (or continue rotating if it was rotating).
Having stated that, there is nothing that insists that any object will orientate itself to an 'upright' position, even when under gravitational effect.

16th Dec 2007, 16:21
'Tis cloudy here (though that has broken the frost that has gripped us for two days)so little (although still slight) chance of a good view - 17.21. Temperature now +2 deg C.

Edited to add that I did get an intermittent view and managed some photographs, though they are just a single 'blurred' spot. I'll try again at 18.55 with an even faster shutter speed and see if I can freeze the motion (of my trembling heart).

I have got a 1000mm focal length lens for my film camera, but without any 'feedback' it's difficult to tell whether the exposure is adequate (I do have film rated at 1600 ASA) - but I'd have to have a whole film processed before I could tell whether my shots were worth processing.

In the days when I had my Exacta Varex IIa I could expose a short length of film and push-process it myself (the camera had cassette-to-cassette operation and an inbuilt cutting knife).

18th Dec 2007, 10:19
Come-on G-GC lets see 'em.

Good view last night- and it was still daylight ( well dusk:))

18th Dec 2007, 10:44
I didn't get to see the later pass (or any since).

18th Dec 2007, 11:06
Yep, that was it:)

tony draper
18th Dec 2007, 11:09
Be very carefull with this near sky photography Mr G-C yer might snap summat yer not supposed to.:uhoh:

18th Dec 2007, 11:26
Is Telstar still up there?
And what happened to that idea to unfold a giant reflector? Was that when we thought a new ice age was coming? I guess they could unfold a huge umbrella to shield us from the sun - that should counter global warming.

tony draper
18th Dec 2007, 12:04
One would imagine Telstar re-enterd and burned up years ago,in low earth orbit they collide with the thin wisps of atmosphere slow down the orbit decays and down they plunge,one could be wrong of course.
Brightest thing I ever saw in orbit was the one that preceded telstar think it were called Echo,huge silver coated Balloon it were for bouncing radio signals off,dont think it lasted long,almost as bright Venus when I saw it.

18th Dec 2007, 13:58
I thought telstar was in the communications museum in North Cornwall, (may have been a model:ugh:)

Here's tonights offerings...http://www.heavens-above.com/allsats.asp?Mag=3.5&lat=53.483&lng=-2.249&loc=Manchester&alt=58&tz=GMT

I've never seen any other than ISS.

El Grifo
18th Dec 2007, 14:17
I just spent 3 wasted days at KSC in Florida waiting for STS-122 to lift off.

First attempt was scrubbed due to faulty fuel sensors, they then spent the next 24 hours talking, cancelling press briefings, re-planning them when everybody was gone, turning up late for meetings etc etc.

They then stood everyone down for 24 so that everyone could "rest a little"

All of Sunday afternoon and evening they spent hours telling us that the sensors were not as important as previously thought and that newer systems were in place to monitor fuel flow. The also said that the had reduced the launch window to one minute to ensure the most fuel efficient trajectory so that the fuel issue would not be a problem.

Everyone got up early the following morning glowing with NASA assurance only to be told that a fuel sensor had failed at refueling and the launch was scrubbed.

After the first failure all they did was talk, no mods or repairs were made.
They then decided and announced that they had worked out that the sensor problem would not affect the sunday launch and then promptly cancelled it immediatley after a sensor again failed. I am not sure what the were expecting, maybe a christmas miracle.

No one would even dream of expecting NASA to risk lives by sending up a dodgy ship, but why they subjected us to endless meetings assuring us that the problem would not affect the launch is anyones guess.

Those more experienced in working alongside NASA said quite clearly that this was standard procedure for them. The left hand never seems to know what the right hand is doing.

Now they want to extend the life of this aging technology beyond its 2010 deadline in case other countries jump in and steal the lead

10th Aug 2012, 20:14
Good view tonight over Manchester Airport. Lowish and bright at 21:59.

Higher and brighter at 23:31.

4 and a half years on from my original post, and realise now the difference between the Shuttle and the ISS !

And still a big NURD about it all:}

10th Aug 2012, 20:58

Here is another tracker for ISS.

Heavens-Above Home Page (http://www.heavens-above.com/)

10th Aug 2012, 21:13
I am proud and lucky to say that I saw a Shuttle launch...

My advice now is to look to SpaceX or buy yourself an aircraft with an afterburner if you can!

Fighter Jet Engine Afterburner Test - YouTube

Rough Boy - ZZ Top - Afterburner - YouTube


11th Aug 2012, 05:42
In my opinion, this one is about the best, if it works in your area. It bases predictions on your location which it gets from your IP Address


11th Aug 2012, 09:25
Here in Lancashire the overflights of the ISS have been visually very spectacular this week, especially a couple of evenings ago.

Passes for the next couple of days (BST) are:

Today 22:45
Tomorrow 21:52 & 23:28
Monday 22:35
Tuesday 21:42 & 23:18

With the obvious proviso that there's no cloud these should all be very clearly observable with the naked eye.

Info from Heavens-Above Home Page (http://www.heavens-above.com)