Last week had
been pretty ordinary for me. Steady at work, things getting back to
normal at home, after mum and dad were away on holiday, just another
quiet week. It’s also been frustrating one. The UK has had some stellar
(scuse the pun!) International Space Station passes this week and I
missed them because of 10/10 cloud over us.

That all changed Friday night. Friday night is pub night and me and
my folks retire to our local drinking hole for a few bevvies. It’s the
only time we really drink anything in a week and it’s our antidote to
the working week. Thanks to accurate times and bearings on
Heavens-Above[1] I had, a couple of days before, set an alarm on my
phone to remind me of an ISS pass at 23:14 on 10/07/2009. It was a good
high pass too, 55 degrees highest alt. The 5-mins alarm went off (a
little early for the actual pass) as we were leaving the pub, but as
every other night had been clouded over I didn’t think much of it until
I got outside. The sky was clear. I told mum and dad we had to be
somewhere dark and with a good view of the sky in 6 mins. As it happens
there’s a break between 2 streetlamps on the country lane where we walk
home where it is dark and surrounded by low-lying land. So we got there
about 23:14. Nothing. No ISS. Had I got my time wrong? Was I an hour
out? Suddenly mum hollers “There it is!” and sure enough, the bright,
fast moving jewel came into sight above the trees to the west. We stood
there in awe and watched as it passed over us, closely followed by
Progress 33 about a half minute behind. My folks have never seen an ISS
pass before, so it was a first for them. It’s only my second observed
pass (the first was accidental). It blew me away. Not only watching the
ISS pass over us stood there in the middle of a small country lane, but
also that my folks, who are both 60 years old, were actually inspired
and amazed by something they’ve never seen before, even after all these

That alone was a really incredible experience. I love sharing my
new-found passion for space with others, but to be able to share
something like that with my folks was brilliant. But it didn’t stop
there. I was able to stand and point out some stars in the sumer sky
that mum and I are trying to learn. I was also able to point out
Jupiter, which is pretty much sitting right below the moon at the

Now that would have capped a very successful evening too. But I went
one better. I decided as it was clear and I had a good shot at the Moon
and Jupiter together that I’d take a couple of pictures. i did some of
the 2 together. I did some of the Moon, as I’ve not photographed it in
this phase and it was very bright and clear. Then I got the crazy idea
to point the camera at Jupiter. What I saw on the resultant photos blew
me away all over again. A clear shot, albeit pretty small, of Jupiter
and the 4 Galilean moons. That said I had to go out at 3am to catch it,
but boy was it worth it. Then sure enough the next morning I showed my
folks and *they* were blown away all over again too!

Jupiter with the Galilean Moons - from left to right Europa, Io, Ganymede and Calisto

Jupiter with the Galilean Moons – from left to right Europa, Io, Ganymede and Calisto

It just goes to show my folks were inspired and excited, and I was
too. It kinda helps that my folks are into space too, hell they were
who got me started, but even so, that’s one night. I’m not going to
forget anytime soon, for sure!


While I was waiting for STS-127 to launch (it scrubbed, again) I got
a clear sky and a shot at ISS with my DSLR. I got a picture of our
beloved space station, and yet *again* blew myself away and my folks.
It was SOME weekend let me tell you!

ISS snapped on my Canon DSLR. Its just about discernible...

ISS snapped on my Canon DSLR. It’s just about discernible…