By Chuck McPartlin
If you're looking for a break from your COVID-19 routine, and there's a break in the clouds, the International Space Station will make a few visible evening passes through Santa Barbara’s skies this week. I've only listed the best evening appearances, and its orbit can change at times, so to get the latest and most complete predictions, visit Heavens Above.
On Friday, April 3, the ISS will first make a low pass over our mountains, appearing in the N at 7:48 PM, skimming from below the Little Dipper to vanish in the NE at 7:50 PM just before reaching bright orange Arcturus. On its next orbit, it will pop up at 9:23 PM in the NW, and climb up 31 degrees into the head of Perseus, where it will vanish in the Earth's shadow at 9:25 PM.
On Saturday, the station will again pass over the mountains, starting in the NNW at 8:36 PM in Cassiopeia, passing by Errai, the head of Cepheus, below Polaris, near Mizar and Alcor in the handle of the Big Dipper, and disappearing near the beautiful telescopic double star Cor Caroli in the ENE at 8:40 PM. We have found an exoplanet orbiting Errai, and Mizar and Alcor were used as a vision test in ancient times.
There will be two passes on Sunday evening. The ISS will rise at 7:49 PM in the NNW and cruise low over the mountains before disappearing in the E, in Virgo, at 7:54 PM. It will show up again at 9:25 PM in the WNW, pass low beneath brilliant Venus, and fade out near Bellatrix, one of the shoulders of Orion, in the WSW at 9:27 PM.
On Monday, April 6, the ISS will make a bright pass starting at 8:37 PM in the NW, sailing above Venus, through the feet of Gemini, and near Procyon in Canis Minor before entering our shadow at 8:42 PM in the SSE while still 30 degrees above the horizon.
Tuesday's pass will be the best and brightest of this series, rising at 7:50 PM in the NW, and going between Cassiopeia and Perseus, past the nose and front paw of Ursa Major, along the Sickle of Leo and Regulus, his heart, and finally setting in the SE by sail-shaped Corvus, the Crow at 7:57 PM in the SE.
Wednesday's pass will be low, starting at 8:40 PM in the W, going below Venus, Orion, and Sirius, the brightest nighttime star, to set in the SSW at 8:45 PM among the dim stars of the constellations that made up the ancient Argo Navis.
The last pass will be on Thursday, a slightly higher and brighter version of Wednesday's path, appearing at 7:52 PM in the WNW, and fading out in the SSE at 7:58 PM.
The ISS will then transition to our early morning skies, returning for evening viewing in mid-May.