ISS and STS-129 observed during rendezvous (WOW!)

From: Robert Holdsworth (
Date: Wed Nov 18 2009 - 15:53:59 UTC

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    For once the weather cooperated and even though it had been cloudy earlier 
    the sky cleared for a perfect view of STS-129 and ISS during rendezvous on a 
    pass commencing with shadow exit at 1526 UTC (not to the second.)
    Distance between them according to the mission status centre on Spaceflight 
    Now was around 3500 feet, unfortunately we missed out on seeing a burn by 
    about 10 minutes and were too early for the backflip!
    The objects were clearly seen as being two distinct ones through binoculars, 
    not so easy 1x.    STS-129 appeared in approximately the 4 o'clock position 
    in relation to the ISS.  The ISS was around the expected mag -3.4 at 
    culmination, the shuttle was dimmer around mag 0.  As they receded the  ISS 
    appeared orange and I could not distinguish STS-129 any more. Not sure how 
    much of this was just the visibility and how much was due to the closing in 
    but as a firing had just occurred it is likely it was closing rapidly. 
    Owing to the early hour I had not got round to monitoring NASA-TV at the 
    This has to be one of my most exciting observations, the only other one 
    coming close being when I observed MES-2 after launch of a satellite a few 
    years ago.
    Now to catch up on sleep but well worth losing a little :-)
    Robert Holdsworth
    New Zealand
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