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Space Station Will Put On A Show in May Above Oregon, Washington, Coastlines

Published 5/02/24 at 4:35 a.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Bandon, Oregon) – Weather in Oregon and Washington is apparently going to start taking a turn for the stunning early next week, and that is going to be good news for those on the coast or anywhere else with a nice, dark sky. The International Space Station (ISS) is going to get good and bright about then, and it's going to make a stellar show – if you'll excuse the pun. (ISS in Portland in July, 2023 - Oregon Coast Beach Connection photo)

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If you're going to hit the Oregon coast or Washington coast, next week's yummy weather conditions are the time. By the end of next week there's a chance some areas will be hitting the 70s, on top of it.

However, according to OMSI's astronomy expert Jim Todd in Portland, the ISS is going to have some pretty decent flyovers, if you use the listings at places like Heaven's Above.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection noticed a flurry of ISS sightings last year, especially in late May and June. That and numerous satellites really made some striking appearances.

So is this a kind of “season” for sightings?

No, Todd said. He told Oregon Coast Beach Connection for the ISS it's a matter of timing and location. However, May is going to be good for spotting the ISS this year.

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“There are several sighting opportunities of the International Space Station for Portland from now through May 28,” he said. “First half of May the ISS will be early mornings. Then the rest of the month will be evenings. After May 28, ISS will not be visible again until June 22.”

Todd said to keep an eye on the skies on May 7, 10, 13, 24: some of the best flyovers occur then. And they'll be of a decent brightness.

The ISS snapped this high-altitude shot of Coos Bay, getting quite close up (courtesy NASA).

“The flyovers will be at a bright magnitude of -3 (equals the brightness of Venus) and visible for duration of 7 minutes,” he said.

Some examples:

- May 7 at 4:53 am, with ISS appearing from WNW, overhead at 78 degrees NNE and then disappears in ESE.

- May 10 at 10:50 am, with ISS appearing from WNW, overhead at 76 degrees SSW and then disappears in SE.

- May 13 at 9:30 pm, with ISS appearing from WSW, visible at 90 degrees NNE and then disappears in ENE.

- May 24 at 10:05 pm, with ISS appearing from WNW, visible at 84 degrees SSW and then disappears in ESE.

Todd said it always amazes people when they're told you can see the Space Station with your naked eye. It's orbiting above us at 17,500 mph – and yet no optical aid is needed.

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“As big as a football field, the ISS is visible by help of sunlight shining on its metallic modules and enormous solar panels,” Todd said. “To the unaided eye it appears as a very bright point of light generally traveling from west to east that does not twinkle and moving against the stars in the background. As to just how bright it should get, it should be plainly visible even from your own backyard. “

Various other satellites roam the skies as well. You can tell the difference easily between satellites, the ISS and aircraft. Aircraft of any kind will have a blinking light, but anything orbiting will not. It will be moving faster than an airplane in the skies and will appear then disappear at some point as it no longer catches the sunlight.

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Starlink satellites above Portland, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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