Chances for early-morning International Space Station sightings arise this week

March 12, 2013|By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

Several chances for early-morning sightings of the International Space Station will arise over the next week in Maryland.

In each case, the space station appears brighter than a star but much further than a plane, zipping across the dark sky, so long as clouds don't block it.

  • Thursday at about 6:30 a.m., the ISS will rise from the southwest, moving toward the northeast horizon until about 6:36 a.m. The bright star near where the station first appears is Saturn, while another bright star it will near overhead is Lyra.
  • Saturday it will again move from southwest to northeast starting at about 6:25 a.m. until about 6:30 a.m., passing through the "Big Dipper" Ursa Major, the "Small Dipper" Ursa Minor, and Cassiopeia.
  • Sunday will provide the brightest but also shortest show. The station won't appear from behind the Earth's shadow until it is directly overhead at 5:36 a.m., moving northeast and passing closely by Lyra again until setting at 5:40 a.m.

The opportunities arise as several crew members aboard the station prepare to make their return to Earth. NASA astronaut and mission commander Kevin Ford, along with two Russian cosmonauts, are due to fly from the station to the steppe of Kazakhstan in a 3 1/2-hour journey Thursday night, according to NASA.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a flight engineer on the current mission, is set to become commander of the next mission, with two other crew members staying behind.

Crew members spoke with a CNN reporter live on the network's "Newsroom" program Monday. Watch the video below:

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