Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The International Space Station: A Perfect View

Last night and tonight we have had absolutely clear skies in the evening. This has meant that New Zealanders have had a clear view of the International Space Station as it passed overhead. It was visible with the naked eye as it passed overhead.

Flying up from the south, at 8.59pm, it brushed the South Island's Cape Farewell and pass over the North Island coast from around Hawera in Taranaki to Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty. It was visible for just under four minutes. The advantage of tonight's viewing was that much of New Zealand was in twilight darkness but the ISS was in bright sunshine - making it much more visible.

The ISS is a research facility currently being assembled in space. The on-orbit assembly of ISS began in 1998. The space station is in a low Earth orbit and can be seen from Earth with the naked eye: it has an altitude of 350-460 km (189-248 statute miles)[1] above the surface of the Earth, and travels at an average speed of 27,700 km (17,210 statute miles) per hour, completing 15.77 orbits per day. The ISS is a joint project among the space agencies of the United States (NASA), Russia (RKA), Japan (JAXA), Canada (CSA) and several European countries (ESA).

Last weekend Russian Mission Control lifted the ISS's orbit by 5.25 kilometres to over 350 kilometres above Earth in preparation for visits to it next month by US and Russian spacecrafts.

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