October 6, 2020

I was unable to catch a glimpse of Comet Neowise back in July, but trying to spot it caused me to pay a lot more attention to the night sky.

Now, I’m not in the greatest location for star watching. I rent a two-story condo in a small complex and either my neighbors or strategically placed trees block a lot of the view. Light pollution means that even on the clearest nights, only the brightest stars are visible. It’s a pretty empty sky compared to the ones I’ve seen while visiting remote areas.

However, thanks to the Star Walk app I’ve been using on my phone, I can now pretty much identify the following: Mars (easiest, because it’s reddish), Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn (not always bright enough for me to see). On a few early mornings last week I saw the belt of the Orion constellation. I can’t see the Big and Little Dippers, even with the app’s help. Those stars aren’t bright enough as a group for me to see a pattern.

Last night, I went out into the backyard in time to see the International Space Station. It was super bright. And it zipped right by. If I hadn’t known the timing and hadn’t had the app to show me where to look, I might have missed it. It was that fast.

The below photo gives you an idea of what they might have seen if they were looking down at my neighborhood as they passed overhead.

Image of Baja California at night taken by the International Space Station

City lights illuminate this night time view of southern California, Mexico's Baja California and the Gulf of Cortez, as photographed by one the Expedition 28 crew members onboard the International Space Station flying at altitude of approximately 220 miles. Photo courtesy of NASA.gov.

Seeing the ISS was the highlight of my week. Heck, the way 2020 has been, it might end up being the highlight of my whole year.

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