Sheridan residents currently have several opportunities to see one of the unique technological achievements of this century with their own eyes. Every evening this week, weather permitting, if you look to the sky you should be able to see the International Space Station (ISS) fly overhead. The ISS is by far the largest man-made satellite in orbit. It's as tall as a 9-story building, with solar panels spanning 240 feet. Traveling at nearly 18,000 MPH at an altitude of over 200 miles, it completes an orbit of our planet every 90 minutes. The Space Shuttle Endeavour is currently docked to the ISS on day 7 of a planned 16-day mission, and along with the Expedition 20 crew there are a total of 13 people currently inhabiting the complex.
The speed and size of this object make it particularly easy to spot if the right conditions exist, and this week provides some ideal evening viewing opportunities. After sunset, when it is dark here but the station itself is still being illuminated by the sun, the ISS will be extremely easy to spot as it appears over the western horizon. It will typically complete its arc in just a couple of minutes, and if it has been more than 90 minutes since sunset the ISS may suddenly disappear before it reaches the eastern horizon as it passes into the earth's shadow.
The exact path will vary with each flyover, and some evenings it may be possible to see the station during two consecutive passes. Tonight (Wednesday Jul 22), watch the north-west horizon for the complex to appear at 10:28pm. Over the next 3 minutes it will rapidly move overhead until it disappears to the south.
The rest of the viewing opportunities this week are as follows:
-> Thursday 07/23 – 9:19pm to 9:23pm – moving from north-west to south-east
-> Thursday 07/23 – 10:53pm to 10:54pm – during this brief window the ISS should be visible to the south-west
-> Friday 07/24 – 9:43pm to 9:47pm – moving from west to south-east
-> Saturday 07/25 – 10:08pm to 10:10pm – another brief south-west pass