Over the next few weeks, skywatchers will have excellent viewing opportunities for the NanoSail-D solar sail.
The satellite is coming to the end of its 95-day mission to test the viability of de-orbiting decommissioned satellites or space debris. NanoSail-D is now de-orbiting and slowly losing altitude in the Earths thin upper atmosphere.
As the satellite descends, viewing opportunities will improve.
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To see NanoSail-D pass over, you will need to know exactly when it will be visible from your location. To do this, go to Heavens-above.com or Spaceweather.com where star charts with times and pass details will be displayed after you enter your observing site.
Once you know the time and location in the sky of the pass of the satellite, make sure you are able to get a good view of the part of the sky where the satellite due to appear. Give yourself plenty of time, go outside and get ready. I always set a 30 second reminder on my watch or cell phone, so I don’t have to fumble around or guess the time.
To enjoy the NanoSail-D passes:
• Make sure you know the right place in the sky and the time of the pass, by checking on the web.
• Make sure you will be able to get a clear view of it from your viewing location.
• Set an alarm or get ready for the pass as it only lasts a few seconds.
• NASA expects NanoSail-D to stay in orbit through May 2011.
• If you are an astrophotographer, don’t forget, NASA and SpaceWeather.com are having an imaging contest of NanoSail-D. Find out more here.
• Most of all, get your friends and family outside with you to watch NanoSail-D and enjoy!