Published: 2016-12-01 09:35:00
Updated: 2017-02-20 09:26:00
Posted December 1, 2016
Updated February 20
By Tony Rice
Raleigh, N.C. — The International Space Station (ISS) will make a spectacular pass over our area tonight, just in time for the WRAL Tower Lighting.
The football-field-sized space station will appear midway up the southwestern sky at 5:51 p.m. and disappear on the northeastern horizon 4 minutes later. If you are standing in front of the WRAL studios for the tower lighting tonight, look in the direction of the Mission Valley shopping center behind the station.
Unlike other passes which are visible from horizon to horizon, you’ll see the station brighten into view 29 degrees above the southwestern horizon and dim again 16 degrees above the northeastern horizon as it passes into the Earth’s shadow.
This is about as good as it gets for seeing the ISS travel through the Carolina sky forecasted to be nearly cloudless.
While the station will be visible up and down the East Coast, it will be particularly bright in our area because its orbit takes it directly over Southern Pines at 5:53 p.m., Fuquay-Varina (10 seconds later), Garner (3 seconds), Knightdale (1.5 seconds), and Roanoke Rapids before leaving North Carolina at 5:53:32 p.m.
The station then continues directly over Yorktown, Virginia and just after 5:54 p.m., over Virginia’s Eastern Shore including NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). Just ten days ago, the Cygnus spacecraft launched from MARS launch pad 0A undocked from the ISS following delivery of nearly 11,000 pounds of science experiments and other cargo to the station.