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Sighting STS-99 in Seattle



I live at 47.7 degrees north, so I don't often get a chance to hear or see
the Shuttle.  Usual Shuttle missions are at a fairly low inclination, and
pass too far south for decent viewing.  I was very interested in STS-99,
which has an inclination of 57 degrees.  My tracking software indicated a
nice visible pass between 0231 and 0236 Z Feb 14 (Feb 13 local).

This afternoon was mostly sunny, but it got quite cloudy in the late
afternoon.  As luck would have it, though, there was a horizontal gap
between the clouds at just the right elevation.  I got to see bright dot of
the shuttle zip in between that gap for sometime between 0234 - 0236.
Being in a lower orbit than Mir, its apparent motion across the sky is
significantly faster.

There are some nice opportunities for visual passes over the U.S. and
Canada during this mission.  Since there's no ham radio on STS-99, we can
at least console ourselves with the beautiful sight of the Shuttle
streaking across the sky just after sunset.  And people in the northern
half of the U.S. and Canada have a chance to actually see the shuttle.

STSPlus (freeware with a suggested donation) is available on the AMSAT
webstite. It has a report which details visual passes beautifully.  But any
tracking program that displays a satellite's access circle and the
terminator (sunrise/sunset line) can be used to predict visual passes.
Just run the passes that take place up to 2 hours after your local sunset.
Observe the times when your location is in darkness AND within the
shuttle's access circle, AND any part of the shuttle's access circle
inersects the sunlit part of the earth.  That, folks, is a visual pass.

73 and happy viewing, 
--Peter, KD7MW

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