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International Space Station Shows New Face

The International Space Station (ISS) has recently become the second brightest object in the night sky — even brighter than the planet Venus, and second only to the Moon. Evenings will provide the chance of a spectacular view, if the sky is clear, as for the next few days the orbit of the ISS around the Earth repeatedly takes it over Ireland.

The ISS periodically makes a series of passes above Ireland. But what is special now is that the Space Station has just become brighter than ever before. At its best, it is now the second brightest object in the night sky. This is because, on 20th March, astronauts fixed a new pair of solar arrays to the Station, adding nearly 1,000 square metres of light-catching area to the station's profile. The International Space Station is now the biggest, brightest man-made object orbiting the Earth. The Station's solar arrays are now almost as wide as a football field. The extra area increases the luminosity of the ISS as viewed— by means of the sunlight it reflects — from the Earth.

Easily viewed passes of the ISS occur every evening until Monday 30th March. Some passes are brighter than others, and the times of the best views as seen from Armagh this week are: Wednesday 25 March from 19:32 in the West to 19:37 in the East-South-East; Thursday 26 March from 19:58 in the West to 20:02 in the South-East; Friday 27 March from 20:24 in the West to 20:27 in the South; and Saturday 28 March from 19:14 in the West to 19:19 in the South-East. The times are very similar to those from Belfast.

Dr Miruna Popescu from Armagh Observatory and coordination assistant for the International Year of Astronomy in Ireland said: “I’ve just seen the new face of the ISS above Armagh tonight and I can assure you that this is a truly spectacular view. Reminding ourselves that there are people living and working up there in space and watching over us puts our life into an interesting perspective.”

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland or Miruna Popescu at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel: 028-3752-2928; jmfat signarm.ac.uk or mdpat signarm.ac.uk.

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Last Revised: 2009 March 24th
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