Satellite Sighting Opportunities Tonight in the Lubbock Area
This evening we have a great opportunity in the Lubbock area to spot a couple of interesting satellite passes that will happen fairly close together. The sky is forecast to be clear, and we have two great flyovers to watch for. Both will be short, but should be bright, and easy to see, as long as the skies remain clear.
The International Space Station will be bright and visible for a short time, appearing on the southern horizon, climbing up toward the southeast, but will only be visible for about 90 seconds. The interesting aspect to tonight's ISS pass is that you will get to watch the ISS disappear into Earth's shadow. The ISS will appear a few seconds after 6:58 p.m. and disappear just before 7:01.
"Iridium" satellites are a large group of telecommunications satellites (numbering over 60) that rotate, with their solar panels at times reflecting the light of the sun down to the earth's surface, just like we can here on the surface with a mirror in hand. Satellite monitors are able to forecast almost exactly then and where that rotation will make the very bright reflection visible, even though it is only a very small path that the reflection travels along. When it happens, the satellite appears like any other small satellite visible with the naked eye, then increases in brightness suddenly, and fades back to faintly visible quickly. Theses "Iridium Flares" usually only last roughly 10 seconds, but are amazing to watch.
Tonight's Iridium flare will begin at 6:47:15 p.m., about 30 degrees northeast of directly overhead, moving toward North quickly. You have to keep your eyes open, or you'll miss it! Details and a sky chart for the Lubbock area are available by clicking this link.
There are free smartphone apps available to assist you in spotting these passes. More information on that is available in a previous post.
Take the family outside for something different tonight, and feel free to leave your sighting comments here, or on KFYO's Facebook page. Hope you enjoy!