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Surfin': Visibly Spacing Out

04/03/2009

Last week, the local television weather man Geoff Fox, K1GF, got me going on a new crusade. During an early evening forecast, he mentioned that the International Space Station (ISS) would be visible later that evening and mentioned when and where. I remember seeing ISS once before: Standing in awe in the middle of a Panera Bread parking lot outside Dayton, Ohio, during Hamvention weekend a few years ago.

I was ready to be awed again, so at the appropriate time, Pumpkin Pie and I went outside to watch for ISS, but a layer of clouds had settled on top of Compounce Mountain to obscure our view. Better luck next time!

Since I did not know if K1GF would announce a next time over the air, I began poking around the Internet to find another way to learn about visible ISS overpasses. In the process, I came across an interesting article about folks who have successfully photographed ISS (and space shuttles) from the ground. I e-mailed the article's link to K1GF (figuring he would be interested), and he e-mailed back a link to his own article on the same subject.

Both articles got me thinking about how to mount a camera on my Celestron telescope, but first things first; I had to find a reliable way to find ISS before I could photograph it.

After additional Internet poking, I found N2YO's excellent Web site that displays a table of visible ISS overpasses for the next five days. Click on the "Draw" link for a particular pass, and the track of the ISS appears on an accompanying map with the visible portion of the pass highlighted in yellow.

One nicety of the Web site is that you do not have to plug in your location because the site determines your home location from your IP address -- probably close enough for most applications; however, there is an option to plug in your exact location or any other location you desire (the "Set your custom location" link on the home page).

The Web site tracks 42 Amateur Radio satellites, so it is also an excellent tracking resource for hams who work the satellites.

By the way, using the N2YO Web page, Pumpkin Pie and I were in awe (probably me more so than Miss Pie) viewing the ISS at dusk the following night.

Until next time, keep on surfin'!

Editor's note: To communicate with Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, save a tree and send him e-mail instead or add comments to his blog. By the way, every installment of Surfin' is indexed here, so go look it up.

Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor



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