Thursday, June 7, 2012

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Rocket...

by Kathy F.

Pinwheel Galaxy via NASA

Perhaps you saw Sara’s post about making a pinhole camera for seeing the transit of Venus without destroying your eyes. Did this pique your interest in observing other astronomical events? Or perhaps you missed it because you didn’t read anything about it until it was too late. Would you like to have a way to learn about what is flying overhead any given day or night?
Then get yourself over to Heavens Above.

The site doesn’t have a ton of pretty pictures or streaming vids. What it does have is a means to track the various celestial bodies, rockets, satellites and spacecraft that are flying overhead.  First, you put in your location (I used the map function myself). Then when you click the links for, say the International Space Station (ISS), you'll be able to find out when it will be visible for your area. 

There is a way to register, but you don't have to in order to access the links on the home page. Registration does give you some extra features, though.
You also don’t even need to invest in a telescope (although that would be awesome and I would be jealous of you). I’ve seen the ISS with a pair of binoculars – not in photographic detail, but I could make out the shape (even saw the Space Shuttle attached to it).

The first time I went outside to try to find a satellite – which looks like a fast moving star – I thought that I was playing the largest game of Where’s Waldo and that there was no way I would spot anything. Then I saw it streaking across the sky. And I was hooked.
Once you get the hang of it, this little site can get addictive. With the warm summer nights on the horizon though, a little star or rocket-gazing is a wonderful pastime.
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