Double Spaceship Sighting Alert – and last chance to see Discovery in orbit

by Nancy Atkinson on March 7, 2011

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Discovery and ISS pass over the UK on March 7, 2011, captured by Will Gater.

UPDATE: We’ve already got a sighting! The image above was taken this evening in the UK by science writer Will Gater.

Space shuttle Discovery undocked from the ISS on early Monday, March 7, and depending where you live, you might have an opportunity to see the two spaceships flying in tandem. This is an incredible sight, and will be the last opportunity to see Discovery in orbit, as she will be retired after she lands and completes the STS-133 mission. Spaceweather.com reports that the station and shuttle will be flying over parts of the United States and Europe Monday and Tuesday, appearing in the night sky as a closely-spaced pair of bright lights. The ISS is bigger, so will appear as the brighter object trailing the smaller Discovery as they move across the sky.

To find out if you’ll be able to see the two spaceships in your area, there are a few different sites to check out:

NASA has a Skywatch page where you can find your specific city to look for satellite sighting info.

Spaceweather.com, has a Satellite Tracker Tool. Just put in your zip code (good for the US and Canada) to find out what satellites will be flying over your house.

Heaven’s Above also has a city search, but also you can input your exact latitude and longitude for exact sighting information, helpful if you live out in the country.

Seeing the two spacecraft flying closely in tandem is a very unique and thrilling sight. Good luck!

Below, watch some of the incredible views as Discovery performed the fly-around maneuver of the ISS early Monday.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

hale-bopp March 7, 2011 at 2:58 PM

You have the advantage across the pond that it gets dark over there before it does here so you get first crack at these things! Nice shot.

Just a warning on the Spaceweather site. It seems to have some rather restrictive criteria for showing passes. Both Heavens Above and Skywatch show a low pass of the Shuttle and ISS here in Tucson tonight (max elevation 17 degrees) but Spaceweather does not list that pass. Spaceweather seems to restrict their listings to the bright passes that are higher in the sky. For photographic purposes, low passes can be nice to get foreground objects in your image so be sure to check the other sites even if Spaceweather says there are no passes.

annanlad March 7, 2011 at 4:27 PM

magic sight tonight. Braw clear skies and really bright. Heavens Above seems to be having some traffic problems, anybody else find this?

hale-bopp March 7, 2011 at 8:06 PM

I just posted my pics of tonight’s pass.

http://halfastro.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/discovery-and-the-iss/

Paul Eaton-Jones March 8, 2011 at 1:44 AM

Our local weatherman here in UK [Hull on the east coast] predicted it would be in the southern sky at 19:23 local time. I went out five minutes before and the sky was crystal clear. What did I see? Nothing at all! Very disappointed. Btw, I’m not exactly a novice when it comes to sky watching.

Nancy Atkinson March 8, 2011 at 5:05 AM

Try again tonight and use the data from one of the links above instead.

Aqua March 8, 2011 at 4:46 PM

From where I’m located the Shuttle and ISS will pass overhead at 7:26 pm… reach a maximum elevation of 85 degress and a -4.0 magnitude! GO AWAY CLOUDS!

ToSeek March 8, 2011 at 6:32 PM

Beautiful view from Greenbelt, MD, earlier this evening. Almost directly overhead and very bright.

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