When last we saw our plucky hero, he had seen the ISS pass that faded into an orbital sunset right above his head and was urging everyone in SoCal and adjoining regions to watch this ISS pass tonight:
One of my best to date I believe. The sky was a little bit brighter than last night (being closer to sunset) so I switched to 4-second exposures instead of 5-seconds. I had my setup location correct in respect to the point where the ISS rose up from the horizon, so it came up in that gap between the trees and thus saw it about a minute earlier. In addition, I had a good (i.e., lucky) guess on where the top of the frame was, so the final frame was perfect and I didn’t shoot any additional frames beyond that and waste time going to my second setup position.
It only took 28 seconds to fold the tripod, run down the little hill in the front yard in the dark without tripping and splooting and dying, cross the street, set the tripod back up, and start shooting toward the west. Not bad, decent planning.
The big question I had here was whether or not I would get the final shot showing the ISS fading into orbital sunset.
I did! This crop of that last image just before the ISS went behind the trees (already fading due to the view through the smog and haze and bright lights of downtown Los Angeles and the beautiful San Fernando Valley) clearly shows it turning orange and fading in brightness over that four seconds.
Then it was a sprint back to the front yard to go looking for the Dragon spacecraft with Crew-5, astronauts from the US, Japan, and Russia, which launched this morning. Unfortunately, I was thinking their flight profile would be similar to a Soyuz launch, where the Soyuz reaches orbit pretty close to the ISS and catches up over just a couple of hours. That was a bad assumption.
This is the SpaceX “Follow Dragon” site and, assuming it’s fairly accurate, when I had just seen the ISS come over and was expecting Dragon to be right behind, Dragon was actually over southern China, on a path toward northern Japan and Alaska.
They have to be in the same orbital plane, which means that Dragon will be over SoCal in about 25 to 30 minutes. Right?
So I went out at the appointed time…
…as Dragon was supposed to be coming up on the San Francisco area and headed right toward SoCal.
I kept shooting pictures until…
…ISS was supposed to be well to our south, off of Baja.
Did I ever see the Dragon? Nope, no sign of it. On the other hand, there was a very bright moon, a little haze for all of that moonlight to reflect off of, and the Dragon is much smaller than the ISS and doesn’t have any of the HUGE solar panels that the ISS has and thus is much dimmer.
Maybe the photos showed what the eye couldn’t see? Nope. No joy.
So enjoy the photos of the ISS pass, and go to Heavens-Above.com to put in your location and see when the ISS (or other satellites) will pass through your skies.
Finally, if you’re curious, on the first big picture above, look for the Big Dipper at the bottom, just above the trees, then follow the “pointer” stars at the end of the “bowl” to see that one star that’s a dot, not a streak. That’s Polaris, the North Star, and it’s a dot and all of the other stars are streaks because the Earth is spinning. Polaris never moves because it’s directly above the pole, but all of the other stars will show longer and longer streaks the further out they are from Polaris, because they move in the sky more as the Earth spins.
In the second big picture above, the really bright “star” at the bottom left between the trees is Jupiter, and that huge glare on the right side is the Moon.