Twinkle, twinkle, space station


What has the ISS (International Space Station) got to do with Rye? Well, apart from the fact that one of the chaps up there comes from the same county as we live in, not much you might think. However, as astronaut Tim Peake looks out of his window he can see our town (and yes, all right, a few other places as well).

If you look at the image of night time Britain (above), taken from the space station, it is clearly possible to follow the coastline of Kent, round past Dungeness, into Rye Bay, and to make out the tiny pinprick of light that is Rye.

Photographs from space, although interesting, are nothing out of the usual these days, but did you realise that, just as Major Tim can see us, we, given the right conditions, can also see him? The Space Station appears in the night sky as a bright spot of moving light and the table below gives an idea of when we could see it over the next few nights.

Just a word of explanation:  Column 1 shows the date and expected time of arrival over Hastings (so much the same time over Rye) Column 2 tells us how long it will be visible for; Column 3 gives the maximum height above the horizon eg on Friday it will, at one point, be almost overhead but on Saturday, for the 2nd sighting, it will be much closer to the horizon; Column 4 gives the direction to look in and the angle above the horizon to see it as it first comes in to sight and the final column gives the direction it will be travelling in and the height when it finally disappears.

So on Saturday, for example, we need to be facing slightly to the right of where the sun will have set and the Space Station will appear at about 4 minutes past 6pm fairly low in the sky. Over the next 4 minutes it will move quickly across the sky getting much higher as it goes  over us until it goes out of sight low over Romney Marsh. All this, of course, assumes we have a clear sky!

Date Visible Max Height Appears Disappears
Fri Feb 12, 6:57 PM 2 min 88° 28° above WNW 63° above E
Sat Feb 13, 6:04 PM 4 min 77° 35° above WNW 16° above E
Sat Feb 13, 7:40 PM < 1 min 31° 21° above W 31° above WSW
Sun Feb 14, 6:48 PM 2 min 66° 34° above W 35° above SE
Sun Feb 14, 8:23 PM < 1 min 10° 10° above W 10° above W
Mon Feb 15, 5:55 PM 4 min 86° 35° above W 10° above ESE
Mon Feb 15, 7:31 PM 1 min 27° 18° above WSW 27° above SW


Our very grateful thanks go to space-watcher John Gurney for supplying all this information

Photo: ISS; Timetable: John Gurney

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