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Up, Up and Away! Spotting the International Space Station

I've always been a fan of astronomy, and the discovery of a new app has fuelled my passion for exploring the night sky

19/02/2016

 

My new app Skyview

I've written a blog on stargazing before, but couldn't resist writing another one after installing a new app on my phone called 'Skyview'. In brief, you point it at the sky and it tells you exactly where all the stars, constellations and planets are and not only that, tapping on any one of them gives you a detailed description of what each object is! Amazing!

I've always been a bit of nerd with this sort of stuff but this app really made my day. I'm sure the novelty will wear off, but not before I've done my best to bore my kids to death with it!

Spotting planets

In fairness to them, the children have always been quite into stargazing too so it wasn't really that hard to persuade them to come outside with me last night to do a bit of planet spotting. The crescent moon we had last night was beautiful, but the best thing ever was spotting the International Space Station moving slowly across the sky like a little floating star.

I actually heard myself saying 'wow, I've often seen that in the past and thought it was a UFO!', a statement that was rewarded by half bemused, half embarrassed expressions from my kids. It did get us talking though.

Travelling through space

How incredible it was to think that, inside that little moving spot of light were six human beings, 250 miles up in the air and travelling at over 17,000 miles per hour. What were they doing in there at that precise moment? Playing cards? Having a late spot of supper?

Probably neither, more likely they were doing very important maintenance work - either way it was lovely to watch and wonder in fascination at this feat of human ingenuity and endurance.

It spurred us all on to go inside and visit a few webpages dedicated to the ISS, and we were delighted to discover live streaming from the crew and live imagery of what they could see at that very moment. The stunning view of earth as it moved past beneath them was breathtaking. The crew discussed everything from what was happening on the ground below, to the most mundane topics and tasks.

Daily tasks at the International Space Station

My children listened with interest as Tim Peake asked for permission to discard a urine tube and was told which drawer he should put it in! Listening to anyone else discussing this rather unsavoury task would have been boring at best, but hearing it live from the ISS seemed to captivate them. Obviously some of the terminology lost them a bit, but after a while we found ourselves understanding more of what was going on.

Ever since I was a kid, I loved to stare skywards and wonder what was up there, and I would have loved to witness such a spectacle as an actual manned spacecraft flying overhead. I think it gave my own kids a sense of perspective in terms of what humans can achieve when they looked up there last night. The world is small, but we can think big! It makes you proud to be a human being.

Jayne, Working Mum and Freelance Editor

 
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