ISS Sightings To The Milky Way

Even though clouds are keeping us covered right now, there is a lot of activity that will be taking place in the night sky over the next few days. The best part is that the clouds may break somewhat by the weekend. Here is the latest.

Close Encounters

Two asteroids will have a close encounter with earth today but are not a threat to an impact. The following is from a NASA press release on the asteroids.

The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., discovered both objects on Sunday, Sept. 5. The Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., reviewed the observations and determined the preliminary orbits. The center’s personnel concluded both objects would pass within the distance of the moon to Earth, approximately 240,000 miles. The asteroids should be visible with moderate-sized amateur telescopes.

Neither asteroid will hit Earth. Asteroid 2010 RX30 is estimated to be approximately 32 to 65 feet in size and will pass within approximately 154,000 miles of Earth at 5:51 a.m. EDT Wednesday. The second object, 2010 RF12, estimated to be 20 to 46 feet in size, will pass within approximately 49,000 miles at 5:12 p.m. EDT.

ISS Visible This Weekend

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the sky will be clear or mostly clear Saturday and Sunday evenings. The International Space Station will fly overhead on both nights. The first sighting will begin at 8:18pm on Saturday in the north sky and fly to the east/northeast sky by 8:21pm. The second sighting will occur at 8:45pm on Sunday. It will start in the northwest sky and fly overhead ending in the east/southeast sky at 8:47pm.

Dark Sky & The Milky Way

Take out the brightest object in the night sky and you get an even darker night. The  moon will be nearly new (dark side facing earth) this weekend and early next week. During this time you will have a great opportunity to view the stars and also the milky way if you head to one of our national forests. The Ozark National Forest and the Ouachita National Forest are among some of the best locations in the eastern half of the country for viewing our night sky, because the light pollution is nearly non-existent. In fact, you would have to head to western Kansas to find similar conditions…and if you want to see a darker night sky, you need to travel to New Mexico or another mountainous western state.

You can check out the interactive national light pollution map at the following link.

Here is a legend for what the colors mean courtesy of

Color Artificial / Natural
Sky Brightness
Sky Brightness
mags / sq arcsec
V Band
Bortle Scale
Description (Descriptions are approximate. Your sky may vary.)
  < 0.01 22.00 to 21.99 1 Gegenschein visible. Zodiacal light annoyingly bright. Rising milkyway confuses some into thinking it’s dawn. Limiting magnitude 7.6 to 8.0 for people with exceptional vision. Users of large dobsonian telescopes are very happy.
  0.01 to 0.11 21.99 to 21.89 2 Faint shadows cast by milkyway visible on white objects. Clouds are black holes in the sky. No light domes. The milky way has faint extensions making it 50 degrees thick. Limiting magnitude 7.1 to 7.5.
  0.11 to 0.33 21.89 to 21.69 3 Low light domes (10 to 15 degrees) on horizon. M33 easy with averted vision. M15 is naked eye. Milky way shows bulge into Ophiuchus. Limiting magnitude 6.6 to 7.0.
  0.33 to 1.0 21.69 to 21.25 4 Zodiacal light seen on best nights. Milkyway shows much dark lane structure with beginnings of faint bulge into Ophiuchus. M33 difficult even when above 50 degrees. Limiting magnitude about 6.2 to 6.5.
  1.0 to 3.0 21.25 to 20.49 4.5 Some dark lanes in milkyway but no bulge into Ophiuchus. Washed out milkyway visible near horizon. Zodiacal light very rare. Light domes up to 45 degrees. Limiting magnitude about 5.9 to 6.2.
  3.0 to 9.0 20.49 to 19.50 5 Milkyway washed out at zenith and invisible at horizon. Many light domes. Clouds are brighter than sky. M31 easily visible. Limiting magnitude about 5.6 to 5.9.
  9.0 to 27.0 19.50 to 18.38 6 or 7 Milkyway at best very faint at zenith. M31 difficult and indistinct. Sky is grey up to 35 degrees. Limiting magnitude 5.0 to 5.5.
  >27.0 <18.38 8 or 9 Entire sky is grayish or brighter. familiar constellations are missing stars. Fainter constellations are absent. Less than 20 stars visible over 30 degrees elevation in brighter areas. Limiting magnitude from 3 to 4. Most people don’t look up. CCD imaging is still possible. But telescopic visual observation is usually limited to the moon, planets, double stars and variable stars.

If clouds or other plans limit your ability to check out the stars this weekend or early next week, you might want to keep the second week in October in mind. Not only is the moon new once again but there is also a weak meteor shower on October 8-9, 2010. The Draconids are not expected to be a very interesting show, but a few falling stars are possible. Regardless, if the sky is clear on that weekend campers in the national forest will see quite the show in the night sky with a bright milky way, constellations, and a few falling stars during what is normally a perfect time of the year to camp.

Ross Ellet

Follow us on twitter “4029weather”


One Response

  1. Drew,had right at 1.00″ inch in Clarksville..I see the NWS has put out a FFW for the Eastern CO’s there sayin another 1″ to 3″ for NW an W Arkansas,whats your thinking?And would it be possible to see the rest of the area go under a FFW? Thanks!Yall are doin GREAT!!

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