NASA Meets Kyoto: Zoom with a View
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We had a bit of fun this evening; with Fumie's folks and my friend Shimada-san, we went up to Shogunzuka (from where I often try to catch a photogenic sunset) to watch the Space Shuttle and the Space Station pass almost directly overhead, 215 miles up. We arrived, literally, just as the space station popped up over the horizon, 725 miles away, followed 10 or so seconds later by the space shuttle. They seemed to be moving quite fast – it was pretty obvious that they weren't airplanes – but it still took a couple of minutes for them to pass at their directly-overhead closest.

They're just very bright points of light (the ISS was at mag -4, the space shuttle at -2), faster than an airplane but nothing at all like a meteor, so it's not at all “exciting”, but it's interesting to think that there are people up there looking down, probably waving at us. We waved back. (not really)

They went by at about an hour after sunset. They'll go by again, directly overhead, on Sunday just 15 minutes after sunset, so maybe that'll be more sparkly... if the weather's clear, we might go take another look.

NASA has a difficult-to-use web tool where you can check flyovers for your location here, but it's poorly designed and gives misleading results, so if you're interested, you might want to check this site instead.

All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

Another useful site is


— comment by Peter in Wales on November 27th, 2009 at 11:12pm JST (14 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Yep, Heavens Above is my go-to site… if the weather is clear and it’s close enough after sunset so that they still catch the light, I’m usually in the backyard watching whatever I can go over. ISS, Shuttles, Iridium flares… and if I can think of an interesting composition I’ll bring the camera with me.

I’m kind of dismayed at how most people I know feel space travel is completely routine or they’re not interested at all. My wife and I watch every shuttle launch we can on NASA TV, and then about 10 minutes later (if it’s dark) head outside and watch it streak overhead here in the UK, chasing the ISS (usually visible several dozen minutes ahead of a launch). I dragged my co-workers out last week when they were going to be visible and their responses were along the lines of “Oh, I thought it was going to be interesting than that” and went back inside before it was barely overhead. We’ll never make it back to the Moon or to Mars unless NASA can get the public amazed with human space flight again.

— comment by JasonP on November 28th, 2009 at 1:41am JST (14 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink
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