One of the more dependable things to see in the night sky is the International Space Station. The large habitat orbits the globe on a regular basis. The above photo is a time exposure of is of the ISS (the solid white line) and just below it is a (much lower) jet that just happened by at the same time this past week. The bright spots are its flashing wing lights.

There are a number of sites on the web that let you know when to look up and see the space staton.

Those site (sight) times are very accurate - when they say 10:55 p.m., they mean 10:55. You will see a Very bright dot coming across the sky, reflecting sunlight off its surface. As it passes out of the sunlight, it fades slowly. You'll be able to see it as long as six minutes, though most other times it's visible above us for about three or four minutes. And it moves across the sky in slightly different directions each time.

For instance:

  • Sunday July 31 - 11:02 p.m. - visible for about 6 minutes, moving from West North West (WNW) to East North East (ENE).
  • Monday August 1 - 12:39 a.m. - 3 minutes, moving WNW to the North
  • Monday Evening August 1 - 10:11 p.m. - Moving WNW to ENE
  • Monday evening August (same night) - 11:47 p.m. - 3 min - moving NW to NE
  • You can Google "ISS tracking" and pick your favorite site. The closest city listed will probably be Missoula. Then go outside and look.

    By the way, we're in the beginning of the annual Perseid meteor shower. The trail of little rocks left by the passing comet Swift-tuttle is fairly wide. The Earth passes through it and the little pebbles burn up in the atmosphere. This is supposed to be an active year for the shower.

    There are some meteors every night, with a peak on August 12, when the moon will be interfering with a dark sky. Look to the North East after midnight.

    You don't need telescopes or binoculars for these things. Just some time. We are lucky to have dark skies in the Bitterroot Valley. Take advantage of them.