International Twilight Space Paddle

Sunday, July 18, 12021 HE

Last year before the pandemic was declared we went to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. At one of the presentations, the presenter mentioned that you can see the International Space Station (ISS) with the naked eye. And the sighting times can be found on the Spot the Station website. Shortly after that visit, I was in Guelph, Ontario visiting my brother and his family. After checking the Spot the Station website we were able to see it from right outside of their home. Though full disclaimer, it is a bit of an anti-climactic experience as all you see is a large, fast-moving light zooming across the sky. The excitement is in knowing that it is a space station with human astronauts onboard. I wonder what sort of detail you would be able to see with a telescope?

Ever since I have been trying to spot the ISS from Vancouver with little luck. Either the viewing times have been at unreasonable hours, it has been cloudy, it has been too low in the sky to see easily, or I have been somewhere with obstructed views. This past week, however, has had several instances with possible viewings. So, tonight after getting the boys to bed, I decided to get out and view it from the water. It was more of a novelty experience, as it would have been much easier to view from land.

Here is a screenshot of the specs for tonight’s viewing. The ISS was going to appear in the western sky 10 degrees above the horizon at 22:30. And it would remain visible for seven minutes before disappearing in the east-northeast. With the westward appearance, I figured being out on the water would work well. The details of how to spot the ISS are here.

Sighting times for Vancouver for the International Space Station.

I launched from Locarno Beach and had a decent amount of time to kill. I wanted to be out on the water before twilight. That way I would only be coming back in the dark. I was sure to pack a headlamp for safety.

It was an amazing night, with clear skies, good temperature, and a light northwesterly wind blowing. Here is the view from my camera mounted to my board as I set out from Locarno Beach. Point Grey is on the left and Point Atkinson and Bowen Island are on the right. The leftmost tip of the right silhouette is Lasqueti Island off in the distance.

The view westward from Locarno Beach.

This is a similar view to the one above taken from my phone a little while later.

The westward twilight.

Below is a short video clip that gives you a 360-degree view of the twilight setting. There is a brief glimpse of the Moon. It was a Waxing Gibbous with the First Quarter Moon having occurred the day before on July 17.

Here is the view looking more northwestward. The skyline shows the peaks of the Sunshine Coast in the distance.

A silhouetted Sunshine Coast.

The colours of the sky became even more intense as the twilight progressed. You can see that it was fairly windy out by the texture of the water.

Deeper into the hues of the twilight.

As I waited for the ISS to appear, I could see the Nanaimo Ferry off in the distance. The ferry lights can be seen on the water at the tip of the landmass on the right of the image below. This was a lot more comfortable distance for viewing a ferry than my last encounter.

The Nanaimo Ferry in the distance.

And below is the view eastward toward Vancouver.

The Vancouver cityscape at twilight.

And this is the sunset at 22:28, two minutes before the ISS was to become visible.

Minutes before the International Space Station comes into view.

I also took a moment to capture a photo of the Moon. The Moon is over the top of West Point Grey. It’s a bit blurry in the image due to the low light and wave turbulence, but you get a sense of the atmosphere with the light glistening on the water.

A Waxing Gibbous Moon over the top of West Point Grey.

And then it was time for the ISS. It is the dash of light near the centre of the image below. Like I said, a bit anti-climactic until you take into consideration that it is a space station flying the air at 7.66 km/s with people on board. That is 27,600 km/h!

The International Space Station as seen from Earth with the naked eye.

And this is a short clip of the ISS hurtling through the sky shortly after it came into view toward the west.

The short clip below is the ISS now over Vancouver in the northeastern sky. I was hoping that the video would give a sense of the speed that the ISS was travelling. But it is so far from being overhead that it is hard to tell. Only when the ISS was directly overhead could you get a sense of how fast it was moving. But in the video I took, there was no reference point to give a relative perspective while the ISS was directly overhead. It was all just dark skies. If you’re curious, I highly recommended checking it out for yourself (Spot the Station).

Below is the GPS record of my paddle from the Google Fit activity tracker. Something went wrong with the recording. But it shares some resemblance to my GPS Art from the last virtual Tuesday Night Race session.

Screenshot of Google Fit activity tracker.

And the statistics from Google Fit. Though, their accuracy should be taken with a grain of salt.

Screenshot of Google Fit activity tracker.

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