On Sunday night around 10:45 pm, I threw on my short pants, stepped into my flip flops and ventured outside to the grassy knoll behind our condo building with the hope of watching a satellite smash into a comet. I wasn’t alone. To my surprise, a smattering of my neighbors also emerged from their homes to stand around in the dark and stare up into the sky. The impact was suppose to happen around 10:52 PST, and the light from the impact would reach earth roughly 8 minutes or so later. By 11:20, when nothing flashed in the sky, I hung my head and trudged back into my house a tad disappointed.
I am a geek for these sort of things; even at the risk of being let down. Back in November 2001, I got out of bed at 2 AM to sit on my balcony to watch a once in 20 years major meteor storm flash in the light polluted skies over LA county for an hour. A few years prior to that, I would go out every night to see the Hale-Bopp comet, and a few years prior to that, I got out of bed at 4 AM to catch the satellite tethered to a 13 mile long cable float by over head. (That was pretty cool to watch).
Despite my let down on not seeing the impact in real time in the real sky, NASA/JPL has some neat pictures taken by the flyby satellite. Maybe I am a weirdo, but I can think of nothing more riveting than to think we were able to smash an object into another object traveling 26,000 mph, 83 million miles away.
For those interested in tracking satellites from their backyard, you may wish to hit the Heavens-Above website. It is one of my favorites. Once you punch in and record your longitude and latitude in decimals, you can bookmark the page and check it to find out which satellites will be visible overhead and at what time to look for them. It is also fun to track the Iridium flares. You have to find your location on the planet and the geocode website is good to find that information. Just type in your street address and it will locate your exact coordinance on the earth.