Look out to the southwest at sunset tonight and with favourable skies,
you will see a rare and beautiful sight as Venus, Jupiter and the
slender crescent Moon form a conjunction with all three bodies in
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) used this conjunction as an
ominous portent in his epic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.
The three bodies are easily the brightest objects in the sky. Look
closely and you may even see ‘earthshine’ (first recognised by
Leonardo-da-Vinci) where the full normally dark globe of the moon can
be seen together with the crescent.
As if on cue and not to be outdone, the International Space station
will also make an appearance. It will cross our skies in the UK just
after dark and if you have never seen it before, it may surprise you
as it easily rivals the brightness of Venus and Jupiter.
The ISS will track in a line crossing Cardiff, Bristol and London.
First appearing from low in the sky due west, it will pass directly
overhead and then exit due east. You will see the ISS from a wide area
several hundred miles from this track, but it will appear
progressively lower in the southern sky. (Say 25 degrees above the
horizon from Inverness)
From London, tt should be first visible at 1717 hrs, directly overhead
at 1720 and disappear from view at around 1721. Timing given is exact
GMT, if you are in Bristol bring these times forward by 30 – 45
If you do see it, keep in mind it will pass closest at an altitude of
around 200 miles at a speed of 17,500 mph (about 5 miles per second)
but will seem no faster than an airoplane.