An incredibly rare space chase will whizz above our heads this evening (8 December) at precisely 6.34pm, when a supply ship bears down on the International Space Station (ISS).
The ISS circles the globe around 15 times every 24 hours, passing above Irish heads daily.
Most times, the ISS passes by during the night, or during the day. So you’re either sleeping in bed, or it’s way too bright out to see it up in the sky. However, on rare occasions, it passes by at the perfect time, just around sunset.
On even rarer occasions, too, we see an added bonus of a supply ship. Actually, this is so rare that the ‘space chase’ is well worth a gander after you finish work.
International Space Station, we are watching
So, at 6.34pm, when you step off your train or bus, hop off your bike or pull into your driveway, look up in the sky.
If you time it right, and look towards the south, you may get to witness something spectacular.
“It is extremely rare to see a ‘space chase’ in Irish skies, so we are urging everyone in Ireland to go out and watch this amazing spectacle,” said Astronomy Ireland’s David Moore.
“The ISS is making space history, rather like Columbus did when he set sail for the Americas. ISS is mankind’s first outpost in space.”
You won’t need any telescopes to see the ISS fly by, with the €100bn spacecraft between 10-to-100-times brighter than the brightest star in the sky, “so it is plainly, indeed spectacularly, visible to the naked eye”, added Moore.
Time is of the essence
The ISS will pass by our field of view for around one-to-two minutes, and we don’t know exactly how close behind that the supply ship, Cygnus, will be. “That’s because they will be doing manoeuvres with it all day,” said Moore, “but it shouldn’t be long.”
During the summer, an opportunistic photographer called Dylan O’Donnell actually timed his shot to perfection, capturing the ISS as it passed between his view in Australia, and the moon far beyond (above).
“Knowing the second it would pass I fired a ‘burst’ mode of exposures then crossed my fingers and hoped it would show up in review – and it did,” he said.