The skies have called to me since I was very young. Any time I am outside, you can find me constantly looking up toward the heavens. I find beauty in the poetry of the darkness.
As an astronomer, I definitely believe that we are not alone in the universe. That doesn’t mean I think little green men have come to probe humans or mutilate cattle. But I am ever interested in the search for what’s out there.
Last night, as I sat in a driveway in my car, I spotted a small point of light in the north. Immediately, my logical, scientific mind raced to find the answer to what I was seeing. There were no blinking lights, so that ruled out the possibility of a plane or drone. There was no noise, so that ruled out a helicopter.
I thought about how a just few days ago, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 from southern California and residents here got a first hand look as its trajectory took it over northern Mexico.
However, the Falcon isn’t due for another launch just yet. So, that couldn’t be it.
Then I thought about the upcoming Draconids Meteor shower. But the movement was too slow, and the trajectory was all wrong to be something burning up in the atmosphere.
I pulled out my phone and began to shoot some video. I watched in awe as the object seemed to maintain a course nearly parallel to the ground. It traveled from west to east in the northern sky until it finally faded from view. Once it was gone, I called a friend of mine.
During the course of our conversation about what I had just experienced, it became apparent that what I had witnessed was the International Space Station flying overhead. I checked the website, and sure enough, the time of my sighting and where I saw the object correlated perfectly.
Mystery solved! My Unidentified Flying Object was now verified and identified.
I’d love to tell you that I have memorized the exact location of the ISS and all visible satellites in my head at all times, but that would be a lie. And while I’ve seen the ISS flying overhead in the past, usually that’s because I already checked out when and where it will be visible.
But tonight was different. I wasn’t expecting to see anything other than the usual bright planets and constellations. That’s what I see most nights. And an innocuous evening errand ending in my car in a driveway spotting something moving slowly through the sky was exciting, to be sure.
If you’d like to spot the ISS flying overhead, check out the official NASA website Spot The Station. It will tell you when and where you can expect it to be visible here in the borderland.
So, take it from me, you never know what you’ll see if you just keep your eyes to the skies.