With only two more Shuttle launches scheduled, following the completion of Discovery’s mission this week, any opportunities to view the Space Shuttle while in orbit should be taken now, because they will soon by a thing of the past. To help capitalize on any observing opportunities, NASA has a website that details when flyovers of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station occur.
NASA Flyover Site
When to View
Luckily, several times this week, the International Space Station and Space Shuttle will both be viewable from our vantage point here in Southwest Virginia. Beginning on Monday and continuing through Friday the celestial pair will be visible flying overhead for anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the day. It appears as though Monday will have the Space Station and Space Shuttle docked for the flyover, with them being a few minutes apart from Tuesday on, following Discovery’s departure from the Station.
Be sure to use the NASA website to figure out what direction the space ships will be coming from, go outside a few minutes before the scheduled flyover and face that direction. The pair of ships should appear as dim stars forming up above as they slowly sail across the sky. Moving over head, they will gain in brightness until moving towards the horizon and dimly fading away just as they had appeared. The best way to view them is with your bare eyes, although binoculars can also be useful. Only a telescope can pick up any detailed structure as was noted in my observation of the Space Station last year. It may just look like a moving star going over head, but knowing that there are people working and living in these craft as they travel 200 miles above orbiting the Earth at 17,000 mph, makes the magnificence of these sightings all the more special.