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Two Space Stations and Supermoon Eclipse Above Oregon, Washington, Coastlines

Published 05/12/21 at 11:25 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Two Space Stations and Supermoon Eclipse Above Oregon, Washington, Coastlines

(Manzanita, Oregon) – To say it's going to be a “stellar” month in May above the Oregon and Washington coastlines would be an understatement. It's more like it will be an “interstellar” month, with two space stations visible and an impressive total lunar eclipse – along with a supermoon.

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Washington's and Oregon's coastline – along with inland spots like Seattle, Portland, Eugene – get to see the total lunar eclipse on May 26. But for an added sprinkle of starlight-like fun, there are plenty of sightings of the Chinese space station and the International Space Station in the next few weeks, with some bright ones coming up on Friday, May 14.

You can see it all in places like Gold Beach, Coos Bay, Yachats, Seaside and Westport, Washington, though it will be weather dependent.

According to Jim Todd of Portland's OMSI, the crew of Dragon Endeavour is currently docked with the ISS – a spaceship as big as a football field.

“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.”

Launched on April 29 from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the People's Republic of China, is the core module of China's new space station Tianhe, which means "Heavenly Harmony." It was a large chunk of that booster rocket that plunged into the Indian Ocean last week.

Both will be very visible in the skies, with some great views on Friday night from Pacific Northwest towns and beaches. You won't need any optics to see these.

Todd said one of the closest sightings of both stations will be on Friday, May 14th, just 4 minutes apart. For example, Portland viewers can see Tianhe, at a dim magnitude of +2.9, rise from S at 9:25 p.m., reach its highest altitude at 9:27 p.m. SSE, and ends at 9:29 p.m. SE. Then few minutes later, ISS, at much brighter magnitude of -2.5, rises from S at 9:33 p.m., reaches highest altitude at 9:35 p.m. SE, and ends at 9:38 p.m. E.

When a star or sky object is measured in magnitude, the minus declarations are brighter than the higher numbers. So a magnitude of -2.5 is hundreds of times brighter than a +2.9.

Another example, on the southern Oregon coast around Gold Beach to Coos Bay or so, the ISS shows up at 9:32 p.m. at a magnitude -2.8, and then at a magnitude -2.6 at 11:08 p.m.

Iss above Portland in 2011

So far it appears weather may mostly cooperate along the beach towns on Friday: National Weather Service predictions are showing partly cloudy skies for Friday night from the southern Oregon coast up through Washington's Quinault Reservation region. See Oregon Coast Weather - Washington Coast Weather 

ISS will be visible nightly through June 1st, then reappear starting June 27th. Tianhe will be visible through May 24th, and then reappear starting June 20th.

On May 26, look above for a stunning show with the full lunar eclipse, which starts in the wee hours that morning. The Earth's shadow starts just barely touching the moon at 1:47 a.m. and an hour later the partial eclipse begins. This is where it will start turning red.

At 4:11 a.m. the total eclipse begins with the moon completely red (but not quite gone). This lasts for another 14 minutes, and then the moon starts to ease out of the shadow, taking until 5:52 a.m. to clear up. By then, dawn will be affecting visibility.

Find ISS, Tianhe and Starlink satellites:

Heavens Above: link here

ISS Live:

Spot the Station: MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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Eclipse in Manzanita, 2009

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