The International Space Station is worth seeing

If you’ve never submitted a request to receive a text or email notifying you of an upcoming opportunity to watch the International Space Station pass through our sights, may I suggest you do so? It’s amazing to stand in the yard 225 miles below this football field-sized space science station and watch it as the sun reflects off its surface. When the scheduled time arrives, if the sky is clear, you will see this moving point of light rushing from point A to point B. The website is There have been several passages over the last few weeks.

An hour after sunset, look for golden Arcturus shining overhead. In the NE, look for Vega, (VEE-ga) the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the Harp. Compare the colors of these two beauties. As the Earth rotates on its axis throughout the night, other summer stars appear in the eastern sky. At midnight, the three stars of the Summer Triangle asterism, which are the three brightest stars in three different constellations, Lyra the Harp, Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in the Eagle will be visible if light pollution or clouds are not a problem. Lyra looks like a slightly curved trapezoid with a handle or a tail. The brightest star is Vega.

To locate the others, imagine a large triangle, with Vega at the top, Deneb at the left top, and Altair at the right. Deneb is the brightest star in the constellation called the Northern Cross, or the Swan, Cygnus. This arrangement of stars resembles a cross. With an active imagination, it can also look like a swan with its graceful neck stretched towards the center of the triangle and its powerful wings spread out on either side of the body. Deneb marks the tail. The Swan’s Head is marked by an exquisite pairing of stars named Albireo, a match between a 3rd magnitude yellow star and a 5th magnitude blue star, considered by many to be the most beautiful double star in the sky. Deneb itself is a massive supergiant star pumping out energy/light equal to 60,000 suns. Cygnus is located in the Milky Way, and if your summer trip takes you to the Alpine region and McDonald Observatory, be sure to check out those very dark velvety skies and enjoy the view. This massive cluster stretches across the E-NE sky and spans three quarters of the sky from the horizon to the zenith. And it’s up to us to take advantage of it.

Around the northern circle, to the NNE, look for Cepheus. This constellation looks like a small twisted house to the right of the Big Dipper. Cepheus is the king who was married to Cassiopeia, of “Clash of the Titans” fame. It will look like an elongated letter W or M. As midnight passes, you may be able to spot her in the NNE. She enraged the sea god Neptune by ridiculing his fish-tailed daughters and was punished by being tied to his throne and forced to circle the North Star forever, sometimes underwater (under the horizon) and other times above, but never able to go home.

Get up early this week to enjoy FIVE planets in the eastern sky about an hour before sunrise. Mercury will be low along the eastern horizon, then Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The distance between orbits around the Sun affects where and when we can see them.

Until next time, let some stars enter your eyes, but don’t let the moon break your heart.

About Hannah Schaeffer

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