While the crew on board the International Space Station may have been looking at Cayman last week, we get a chance to have a look at their space craft this week.
Residents of the Cayman Islands will have two good opportunities later this week to see the space station as it passes overhead.
Tiyen Miller of the Cayman Islands Astronomical Society said on Thursday, 13 May, and Saturday, 15 May, observers in Cayman will be able to see the ISS, all lit up, in the early evening.
The Astronomical Society is setting up its next stargazing events to coincide with the space station spotting.
“How amazing to find that astronauts aboard the International Space Station chose to point their camera down over the western Caribbean and snap a few photos of Grand Cayman,” Miller said.
ISS Commander Shane Kimbrough posted four photos of different areas of the island on social media last Thursday, garnering many responses from local residents and visitors who want to come back here.
Miller said, “Though it may seem incredible that astronauts can see our tiny islands from space, the space station actually passes over the Cayman Islands very frequently as it circles the whole planet about 16 times a day in its orbit just 250 miles above the ground at about 14,000mph.”
He added, “In fact, the space station is visible from Cayman Islands too – but you’ve just got to find the right time to look. You might wonder – why, if it passes over us so frequently, we can’t see it all the time as it passes overhead? Well, if it passes over in the day, you can’t see it because the sky is so light that it’s lost in the blue skies. And in the middle of the night, you can’t usually see it because it has no lights of its own, and sails by in across the skies invisibly dark against the night sky.”
However, when the sunlight hits it at just the right time and angle, it is visible from Earth.
“The key is to find times when it is passing overhead just after sunset or just before sunrise,” Miller said. “At these times, the Sun has set for us on the ground, but because the Earth is round, the space station 250 miles above us is actually still in the sunshine. Hence, we see it as a brilliant bright dot crossing the sky, reflecting the light from the sun making it visible to us.”
He pointed out that space station is quite sizeable, larger than the sports field at the Truman Bodden Sports Centre.
The Astronomical Society is setting up viewing station on Seven Mile Public Beach on Grand Cayman on Thursday, 13 May, from 7pm. The ISS flyby will happen at 7:32pm.
On Saturday, 15 May, the group will be at the lighthouse on the Bluff on Cayman Brac from 7pm to witness another ISS flyby at 7:34pm.
Miller says all are welcome to these free events.
Check the Astronomical Society’s Facebook page for the latest updates.