Spaceheads

Watch Discovery Fly Overhead, for the very last time – Tonight!

Around the world in HOW many days?

Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines

Yesterday on 7 March 2011, the Space Shuttle Discovery departed from the International Space Station to begin her last de-orbit from space, and is scheduled to land in Florida on Wednesday afternoon, March 9 at 11:57 a.m. EST. That’s 8:57am for you west coasters. Her next flight will be atop the special 747 Jumbo-Jet Shuttle Carrier while being delivered to a lucky and yet to be announced museum, where she will be enshrined to be admired for generations to come.

However, some of you in the northern states and Europe still have one last chance to see her in her natural environment, as she de-orbits overhead on the way home. It is quite easy to pick out even with the bare eyes, even in brightly lit cities. All you need to know is where and when to look. They will appear as a pair of fast moving bright stars, traveling in a Northwest to Southeast direction. The brighter of the two will be the ISS, and Discovery will trail approximately 1 minute behind. They should be visible for 2-3 minutes tonight in favorable northern locations. The south get’s the short end of the stick, with some places like Houston and Jacksonville getting  just a quick pass low in the northern sky tonight, Tuesday evening.

Thanks to its size and highly reflective solar panels, the ISS is easily the brightest man-made object in the sky, approaching Venus in magnitude. Also of interest are the facts that it will sometimes suddenly disappear when it flies into the Earth’s shadow, and at times you can see the sun’s reflection in the solar panels as brilliant flashes.

All you have to do is look up at the right time. Check your location by visiting spaceflight.nasa.gov /realdata/sightings/

Tonight’s event starts on the west coast about 7:24pm and should last for several minutes.

You can track Discovery live via this cool website http://www.n2yo.com/?s=37371 (REALLY cool!) and get predictions on the best time to view in your location here http://www.n2yo.com/passes/?s=37371

There are also smartphone aps that allow you to track satellites in real time such as Android’s Space Junk (free!) and IPhone’s simpleflybys (not free, untested)

Discovery Departs the ISS

Mama, I'm commin home...

Sources and images courtesy of Yahoo, NASA, Kennedy Space Center, and awesome lead photo courtesy Jerry Lodriguss via spaceweather.com

  • Blast! I missed it. Godspeed, Discovery. Bring the astronauts home safely.

  • ptschett

    I like Heavens Above for these kinds of things.

    As is typical whenever something interesting is happening in the sky, here in Fargo we've got clouds and snow while our last chance to see Discovery is occurring. It's not the first viewing opportunity I've lost to weather; a few missions ago the landing track was supposed to take the Shuttle almost directly overhead around 6 in the morning, but weather at KSC forced NASA to delay the deorbit burn for another orbit and the new landing track was of course completely different.

    • Yeah, I was actually using Heavens Above in my research, but hadn't quite figured out why it was giving me conflicting information from all the other sites (too much to digest such a quick post), so I held off listing it till I figured out what my malfunction was.

      And… it's still making me feel stupid.

  • Sadly, I was not able to see shit here in Texas. Not only is there a grip-tonne of light pollution, I am way to far south. Maybe next time… Shit.

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