Early Fall ISS, Mars, and Stars

By Chuck McPartlin

The International Space Station will be making visible passes through Santa Barbara’s evening skies for the next week. Its orbit may change from time to time, dodging space junk occasionally, so to get the latest and most complete predictions, visit Heavens Above.

On Friday, October 2, the space station will make a brief run low in the NNW at 8:41 PM PDT, crossing the bowl of the Big Dipper asterism before fading out.

On Saturday, it will appear in the NNW at 7:54 PM and skim very low over our mountain horizon to disappear in the NNE at 7:56 PM.

Sunday’s first pass will start at 7:07 PM in the N, another low but longer mountain pass ending in the NE at 7:10 PM. On its next orbit, it will pop up in the NW at 8:42 PM and climb by the end of the handle of the Big Dipper to vanish into our shadow at 8:44 PM.

On Monday it will rise in the NW at 7:55 PM and make a bright pass by the junction of the bowl and handle of the Big Dipper, then above Polaris at the end of the Little Dipper’s handle, then by dim Errai marking the roof of the house asterism in Cepheus, and fade out above the W of Cassiopeia in the NE at 7:59 PM. An exoplanet has been found orbiting Errai.

Tuesday’s first pass will start at 7:08 PM in the NNW and cross our mountain horizon through Ursa Major, Camelopardalis, and Cassiopeia. It will pass close by the Andromeda Galaxy and below the Great Square of Pegasus to disappear in Pisces in the E at 7:14 PM, with Mars rising bright and red on the horizon. On its second pass it will rise at 8:45 PM in the WNW by orange Arcturus and head south, fading away in the W in Serpens Caput at 8:47 PM.

On Wednesday, the ISS will rise at 7:57 PM in the WNW, cruise from Boötes through Corona Borealis and Ophiuchus, and then above Jupiter and Saturn, fading away in the S at 8:02 PM in Capricornus.

The best and brightest ISS pass of this sequence will start on Thursday at 7:10 PM in the NW, cruising silently overhead through the handle of the Big Dipper, by the lozenge asterism forming the head of Draco, then between Deneb and Vega of the Summer Triangle, in front of the nose of Delphinus, and down through dim Aquarius in the SE, where it will end at 7:17 PM by lonely Fomalhout.

Friday will have a dim pass starting at 8 PM in the W, below Arcturus, then along Scorpius, stretched along the horizon, and fading out in the SSW at 8:04 PM.

The last pass will be on Saturday, October 10, a longer, brighter, and higher version of Thursday’s pass, starting in the WNW at 7:12 PM and ending in the S at 7:18 PM.

October is the month when Mars will put on its best show for the next couple of years, so get out and get a look at it! After 8 PM PDT on October 2 catch Mars very close to the waning gibbous Moon. On October 6, the Red Planet will be at its closest to Earth, and show at its biggest in a telescope. On October 13, Mars is in opposition, rising at sunset, and visible all night.

On the night of October 20/21, catch the annual Orionid meteor shower, consisting of dust shed by Halley’s Comet. This is one of the best showers most years, and the Moon sets as the shower nears its peak at 11 PM, leaving the prime viewing hours free of extra light.

On October 22, the near First Quarter Moon will join Jupiter and Saturn in a pretty triangle.

Halloween this year will have a Full Moon, and it will be a Blue Moon by the current definition of second Full Moon in a month. Don’t expect to see any blue color, though – it’s more likely to look reddish orange if there’s smoke still in the air. The Moon will also be very near apogee, making this the smallest Full Moon of the year. Uranus will be at opposition, in Aries about 8 degrees up and right of the Moon, and detectable in binoculars.


Written by macpuzl

Outreach Coordinator for the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit

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