Active week of ISS passing overhead
The International Space Station (ISS), the largest human-made body in low Earth orbit, will be able to be viewed by the naked eye here in South Louisiana over the next week! If you have never taken a second to peer up at the passing space station during a clear morning or evening, this is your chance. There are several promising evenings ahead, with the best and brightest being the evenings of Monday, April 6th and Tuesday, April 7th. The table below describes each pass over the next 7 days.
Brightness, or the magnitude of a celestial object, depends on its luminosity, distance from Earth, and any extinction of the object’s light caused by interstellar dust between the object and the observer. The magnitude scale is reverse logarithmic, meaning that the brighter the object is, the lower its magnitude. For instance, the brightest visible star in the night sky is Sirius, at a magnitude of -1.46, whereas Venus is much brighter at -4.2. The faintest stars that are visible to the naked eye have magnitudes of +6.5. What is also exciting about the 5 minutes passage on April 7th, is that it will travel almost overhead. The highest point’s altitude is the degree from the horizon, 0° being along the horizon and 90° being directly overhead. At 76°, or even 49° on the evening prior, the ISS should be quick to point out as it jets across the night sky.
When you are observing the ISS, what you are actually seeing is the Sun’s rays reflecting off of the massive solar panels of the station, which cover an area of about 27,000 square feet – more than half the area of a football field. The ISS has been orbiting our planet over the last 21 years, and there are currently 3 humans on board – Oleg Skripochka, Jessica Meir, and Andrew Morgan. Three more astronauts and cosmonauts are scheduled to join them on a launch later this month.