When I host a star party or head outdoors in the evening, I like to check the status of satellites such as the Iridium communications satellites or the International Space Station (ISS). When they are visible, I like to point them out to friends. I marvel at these satellites in particular because they are (a) bright enough to see even with bright city lights, and (b) are well tracked and therefore predictable.
For the next few weeks the International Space Station will be particularly well positioned in its orbits around the Earth to be seen much more often than usual - even multiple times a day each week - throughout the month of July! I am looking forward to the graceful swing of the ISS across the sky, speeding at over 17,000 miles per hour overhead. NASA is calling this especially interesting period of time the Space Station Marathon and I think it will be great. Next week the Space Shuttle Endeavour will launch and link to the ISS to make the flyby even more interesting.
Here is the timetable for ISS visibility over San Francisco. If you don't live here, you can use the link on the right hand side of this blog to get to the general purpose ISS locator ("Space Station/Satellite Sighting").