Summer Space Station

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By Chuck Macpuzl

The International Space Station will make some nicely visible evening passes through Santa Barbara’s skies over the next week. Its orbit can change at times, so to get the latest and most complete predictions, including some bright morning passes this month, visit Heavens Above.

On Sunday, July 12, the ISS will make a brief low pass over our mountains, appearing in the N at 11:49 PM PDT, and fading away 11 seconds later in the NE.

On Monday, it will make two passes. The first will rise at 9:19 PM in the SSW, pass below sparkling orange Antares, the Rival of Mars, then above bright Jupiter and Saturn, past Altair at the southern end of the Summer Triangle, and set in the ENE at 9:25 PM. Altair rotates so rapidly that it has a football shape. The station will appear again at 10:56 PM in the W, sail by Denebola, the Tail of the Lion, then below the bowl of the Big Dipper and Polaris, and disappear in the NNE at 11:01 PM.

Tuesday's pass will start at 10:08 PM in the WSW, and be a slightly higher and brighter version of Monday's second pass, setting in the NNE by the W of Cassiopeia at 10:14 PM.

Two passes will occur on Wednesday. The first will be quite bright, rising at 9:20 PM in the SW in Corvus, passing through Virgo and by the handle of the Big Dipper, along the body of Draco, and setting in the NE at 9:27 PM in Cepheus. On its next orbit, it will briefly appear very low over our mountains in the NW at 11:00 PM, fading away in the NNW at 11:01 PM.

There will again be two passes on Thursday, July 16. The best and brightest pass of this sequence will start at 8:33 PM in the SW, sailing from Libra past Rasalgethi, the head of Hercules, then through Lyra with bright Vega, then across Cygnus, the Swan to set in the NE at 8:39 PM. Rasalgethi is a beautiful color-contrast double star in a telescope. At 10:11 PM the station will make a low pass over our mountains from the WNW to the NNE, vanishing at 10:15 PM.

Friday's ISS pass will be a higher and brighter version of Thursday's second pass, rising at 9:23 PM in the W, and setting in the NNE at 9:28 PM.

On Saturday, the ISS will rise at 8:34 PM in the WSW, through Leo, then below the bowl of the Big Dipper and below Polaris to set above Cassiopeia in the NNE at 8:41 PM.

On Sunday, July 19, the station will make a dim, very low pass starting in the NW at 9:26 PM and fading out in the NNW at 9:28 PM.

The final pass of this sequence will occur on Monday, rising at 8:37 in the NNW, and skimming over our mountain horizon to set in the N at 8:41 PM.

If you have binoculars, take a look at Jupiter and Saturn while you're out. You should be able to spot up to four of Jupiter's 79 known moons. Saturn has 82 moons, but you'll need a telescope to see its rings and satellites.

After a short pause, the ISS will return to our night sky from July 25 into August.

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mp805 Jul 11, 2020 11:37 AM
Summer Space Station

Great post Mac, Thanks! Gonna dust off the binoculars and take a look. Are you following the Mars Perseverance Rover Launch scheduled for July 30th?

macpuzl Jul 11, 2020 10:02 PM
Summer Space Station

I didn't realize they had repositioned the launch window to July 30 - August 15 after the last delay. Shows how much I wasn't watching closely.

macpuzl Jul 11, 2020 03:12 PM
Summer Space Station

Thanks, MP805. I'm not following the launch of Perseverance that closely, because the launch window is closing, and with all the normal plus COVID chances for postponement, it'll either make it, or not. Once it makes it to Mars insertion, I'll follow more closely.

macpuzl Jul 11, 2020 03:18 PM
Summer Space Station

For anyone out looking at the ISS in the early morning, you may also spy bright Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE low in the NE just before dawn. Binoculars will give a great view. You might also be able to catch it on the SB Fire webcams ( ) if you don't have a good horizon to the NE, or don't want to leave home. From July 12 to 18, you may be able to catch it both in the early morning, and just after sunset low in the NW. It'll be an easier evening object from July 14 onward. Finder charts at

macpuzl Jul 11, 2020 03:22 PM
Summer Space Station

And, if you just want some respite and relaxing views of the night sky, and some insight into how a lot of the SBAU public outreach folks are feeling now that we can't show the sky to people in person:

macpuzl Jul 16, 2020 01:45 PM
Summer Space Station

Orbit change! The ISS passes from Thursday, July 16 onward have changed, so the predictions here are no longer valid. Check the Heavens-Above link for the new events!

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