Posted 18 July 2014 by Andrew Gardner
In June the International Space Station passed overhead several times, and it's scheduled to return to our Sussex skies in August as well. A chance conversation at the allotment society coffee morning, of all things, led me to this wonderful sight. I rarely 'do' coffee mornings so it must've been synchronicity. Look up at 22:10, said a wise gentleman, and you will behold a bright light. Moving rather fast. So we did, and it did.
Apparently in August it will be visible from Sussex again during the Perseid meteor shower, around mid-month, which also coincides with a very bright full moon. A website called meteorwatch.org has details of how and when we stand a chance of spotting all these wonders and you don't have to be an expert, or have special equipment, to do so.
The space station only takes about 90 minutes to pass around the Earth so if you miss it first run, you're likely to get a second chance on its next pass. It goes west to east and each pass lasts about five minutes. Some passes are right overhead and very clear, others lower and less so, but the August passes should be good if it's not too cloudy. If we're really lucky, we might also see bright objects in front of or trailing the space station that could turn out to be a Soyuz crew capsule or a supply vessel.
As we watched the space station pass overhead we debated what we might be seeing. My other half was cynical but it clearly wasn't one of the usual suspects. (And I doubt it was the Millennium Falcon either - the supreme irony of Han Solo being injured by a faulty door on his old ship hasn't escaped anyone, has it?) This was big and bright to the naked eye and even through our very basic binoculars you could tell this was too big to be an aeroplane; no flashing lights, for a start, which also ruled out my conventional idea of an alien spaceship. Sad, that, because I'd just read about a conference held in Hastings recently for people who have been abducted by aliens. And returned, presumably. I warmed to the organiser, though, when she was quoted as saying; "All we can do is hear people - hear their stories which they need to tell."
So now it's time for you to visit Sussex (click here to view our selection of holiday homes), see the space station and try not to get abducted by little green men. Or reptilians. Where's my Tardis?