Urban dwellers may resign themselves to spotting the Moon, planets and the brightest stars with the unaided eye on a clear night, but every so often a bright satellite will catch your attention as it glides silently across the sky. The brightest is the 400-tonne International Space Station (ISS) whose orbit carries it directly overhead as seen from the British Isles and parts of Western Europe tonight.
Physicists are gearing up to send a re-engineered science instrument originally designed for lofty balloon flights high in Earth’s atmosphere to the International Space Station next week to broaden their knowledge of cosmic rays, subatomic particles traveling on intergalactic routes that could hold the key to unlocking mysteries about supernovas, black holes, pulsars and dark matter.
The serene beauty of the International Space Station sailing silently overhead needs nothing more than the naked eye to appreciate. But when the dazzling ISS is also in conjunction with a pair of prominent Solar System bodies — such at the Moon and Saturn on the night of 2 August 2017 in the UK — you may wish to grab your binoculars and look low in the south-southwest just before 11:20pm BST.
A NASA instrument built to help astronomers learn about the structure and behaviour of neutron stars, super-dense stellar skeletons left behind by massive explosions, has been mounted to an observation post outside the International Space Station after delivery aboard a SpaceX supply ship earlier this month.
Dark matter, the mysterious substance that constitutes most of the material universe, remains as elusive as ever. Although experiments on the ground and in space have yet to find a trace of dark matter, six or more years of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has broadened the mission’s dark matter hunt using some novel approaches.
If you chance upon a bright ‘star’ crawling across the sky in an arc from west to east, an object that doesn’t flash or possess red and green running lights (which is an aircraft), then you can be fairly certain that you’re looking at the International Space Station (ISS). Find out when and where to see it from the British Isles and Western Europe this week.