While out taking some astrophotos last night, I was lucky enough to catch a celestial near miss that could have been disasterous.
Knowing that the International Space Station was going to be visible around 22:42, I turned to the north just in time to see it make its appearance about 10 degrees over the horizon. This was going to be a particularly good pass as the ISS would climb straight up to about 45 degrees before entering the earth's shadow, brightening to about magnitude -2.3.
As I stood there watching the bright point of light climb into the night sky, something didn't seem quite right. Suddenly, it occurred to me. I thought, "Oh no! It's going to punch a hole right in the bottom of the Big Dipper!"
Springing to action, I swung my camera around and quickly framed up the dipper as best i could and opened the shutter to capture the impending doom of biblical proportions. If I could catch this on "film" (It's a digital camera. The phrase "catch it on CCD", just doesn't have a good sound), I could be famous!
I watched with anticipation as the station moved closer and closer to the dipper, anxious about what I was going to do when the inevitable flood came, but excited, too. I was going to be witnessing one of those events that would be talked about and studied for ages to come.
But, alas, it seems as though my excitement was premature. ISS passed just outside the end of the dipper, thus averting the disasterous flood that would have ensued had it punched through the bottom as I originally thought it might. I still captured a fairly decent photograph of the event (click the thumbnail). One of many passes that I've observed in recent weeks, and one of the brighter ones.
The string of multiple visible passes of the ISS is coming to a close for the time being, until orbital mechanics brings it to our neighborhood again. There are a few more passes coming up, and some of the better ones, too.
Over the next week, there are several overhead passes, most of them having the station show up as magnitude -1.0 or brighter. Head on over to Heaven's Above to get a table of upcoming passes. You can input your town and the site will pull up your latitude and longitude, and even correct for time zone variances.