ISS in December
By Chuck Macpuzl
The International Space Station will make a few visible passes through Santa Barbara’s evening skies in early December. Its orbit can change a little, so to get the latest and most complete predictions, visit Heavens Above.
On Saturday, December 7, the ISS will make a very low and short appearance over our mountain horizon, starting in the NNW at 6 PM PST, and ending a minute later in the NNE.
The station will do quick pop-up on Sunday at 6:47 PM in the NW, vanishing in the Earth's shadow at 6:48 PM as it reaches the lozenge of stars that form the head of Draco, the Dragon.
Monday's pass will be the brightest of this series, rising in the NW at 5:59 PM, passing through the bowl of the Little Dipper, then past bright white Mirfak in Perseus, and fading away at 6:03 PM in the E just before reaching the Pleiades open star cluster. Many people mistake the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, for the Little Dipper, which is actually the constellation Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, with the North Star at the end of its tail. The Pleiades are around 400 light years away, so the light you see left those stars when Galileo was looking at the sky.
On Tuesday, the ISS will rise at 6:47 PM in the WNW, pass below Altair at the southern end of the Summer Triangle, then across the dim expanse of the Watery Sky to disappear in the SSW at 6:51 PM near Fomalhaut, the Lonely One. The constellations around Fomalhaut all are associated with water, since they mostly date back to ancient Sumeria, and the Sun was in this part of the sky when they had their rainy season.
The ISS pass on Wednesday will be the highest of this sequence, starting in the NW at 5:58 PM and passing across the center of the setting Summer Triangle, close by the nose of tiny Delphinus, the Dolphin, then past Enif, the nose of Pegasus, and across the length of dim Aquarius before fading away below Deneb Kaitos, the tail of Cetus, the Sea Monster, in the SSE at 6:04 PM.
The last, dim pass of this sequence will occur on Friday at 5:59 PM in the W, passing above the planets Venus and Saturn, and below Fomalhaut to set in the SSW at 6:03 PM.
Following a series of early morning passes, the ISS will return to our evening skies in the third week of January.