A RARE ‘space chase’ should be visible in the skies over Donegal during the next couple of nights when the brilliant International Space Station blazes across Irish skies and is followed by a re-supply craft called Dragon.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Astronomer and Editor of Astronomy Ireland Magazine, Mr David Moore explained: “We expect ISS to pass over at 9:26pm (Monday) and then we expect the fainter Dragon spacecraft to be launched from Florida at 9:33pm and 18 minutes later it will reach Irish skies at 9:51pm.
He continued: “The two craft should be much closer tomorrow when they will be side by side in the sky at 10:08pm in an amazing sight plainly visible to the naked eye.
Mr Moore explained the Dragon spacecraft is privately built by the company set up by PayPal founder, Elon Musk, who is a regular visitor to Ireland.
He added that any young, budding astronauts from Donegal could be among those in the future who work for Mr Musk’s company SpaceX.
“Elon Musk has multi-billion dollar annual contracts from NASA to build their spacecraft so his space company ‘SpaceX’ is even bigger than PayPal which he sold it for €1 billion in 2003.
He added: “The most remarkable thing about this multi-billionaire businessman is that he said he plans to put 80,000 people on Mars during his lifetime. He is 43. Given his past successes in business, science and engineering, one has to believe him.
Mr Moore explained: “Many of his astronauts will not be American, they will come from all around the world, including Ireland – something schoolchildren watching this night-time spectacle over the next few nights should keep in mind.” said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.
Astronomy Ireland is following the ISS closely as it flies over Ireland every night from April 6th to 20th.
Details of the times to watch (it is a different time every night) and the ‘space chase’ are posted just before sunset (approximately 8pm) on the society’s website: www.astronomy.ie
The prediction is left this late so the very latest information can be given and because they some times fire the ISS engines and boost the station’s orbit.
While all this is taking place the brightest planet in the sky, Venus, is passing the beautiful star cluster called ‘The Seven Sisters’.
“Venus is 100 times brighter than the brightest stars in the sky. It lies in the west from sunset (about 8pm) until midnight and is plainly visible to the naked eye.
While you marvel at Venus, perhaps while you’re out waiting for the space station to fly over, look just to its right and you’ll see the Seven Sisters cluster with the naked eye.”
Mr Moore concluded: “This week should be one of the most amazing of the year for stargazers, with the ISS and Venus and its cluster to see, all in one night!”