"SPOT THE STATION" and "HEAVEN ABOVE" compared
In January 2013 I subscribed to NASA’s “Spot the Station”
e-mail alert service. Ever since, they have been sending me e-mail alerts which basically told me when to walk out in my garden to watch the “ISS” – either soon after sunset / late at night/ or in the early morning hours. I’d like to stress the fact that I have NEVER received more than two alerts within the same day – and that large time gaps would often occur between a given series of “ISS” passes and another. I didn’t give too much thought to the fact that, if the “ISS” orbits Earth every 92 minutes or so
(as claimed by NASA), I should be able to see it at least once every single day /or night, of course.
I must say that the dozen or so “ISS” flyovers that I’ve been able to observe have always had the “ISS” appearing in my skyline fairly consistently ‘on schedule’ – although generally a few (or several) minutes later than the officially released NASA time.
Imagine my shock when I discovered today that – according to “HEAVENS ABOVE”
(another website which tracks the “ISS”) - the “Thing” would actually be visible from Rome PRETTY MUCH EVERY SINGLE DAY – and, occasionally, up to 3 / to 5 times within a single day! So, in any case – and as a first, logical conclusion - if the HEAVENS ABOVE data is true, NASA has been cheating me ever since I signed up to their “Spot the Station” alert service. They have only been sending me some partial / selected / sporadic alerts of “ISS” Rome fly-overs. The lazy bastards.
So I started comparing my old data collection of “ISS” Spot the Station e-mail alerts - with the HEAVENS ABOVE data - to see if my Rome-flyover data (received from NASA's "Spot the Station") at least matched with the HEAVENS ABOVE data. At first glance, they seemed pretty consistent (aside from some 'minor' discrepancies) – and, in any event, seemed to confirm that I was correctly comparing the two databases (and that I wasn't erroneously looking at some unrelated data - or entered wrong longitude/latitude data for "Rome, Italy" at the HEAVENS ABOVE search engine ) :
For instance, here is the compared data of two “ISS” flyovers that I witnessed myself, on April 19 and June 1 of this year:
April 19 – 2014 ROME flyover
SPOT the STATION:
Time: Sat Apr 19 - 22:06
, Visible: 1 min, Max Height: 55 ° - Appears: NW, Disappears: NW > witnessed myself
Time: Sat Apr 19 - 22:03
, Visible: 3min, Max Height: 61° - Appears: NW, Disappears: NW
June 1 – 2014 ROME flyover
SPOT the STATION:
Time: Sun June1 - 4:59 AM
, Visible: 6 min, Max Height 54° - Appears: NW, Disappears: ESE > witnessed myself
Time: Sun June1 - 5:00 AM
Visible: 6:33min, Max Height: 57° - Appears: NW, Disappears: ESE
As you can see, apart from some minor discrepancies, the data of the two “ISS” alert services appear to match pretty closely. Well, you could say that the two APRIL 19 timelines are a bit odd, since they differ by 3 minutes (22.06 versus 22:03). In 3 minutes, of course, the “ISS” [according to its alleged speed of 28.000km/h] would travel for as many as 1440km! One wonders how NASA could possibly be 'unsure' of the exact location of it's "ISS" - at all times... However, I was now reasonably satisfied that I was not comparing some entirely wrong/ unrelated / incomparable data.
But – and this is a BIG “but”! – as I patiently proceeded to compare further data of the two websites, I started bumping into an ever-growing number of increasingly absurd / inexplicable discrepancies.
For instance, here’s the comparison of the July 17-2014 data of the two “ISS-tracking portals”:
July 17 – 2014 ROME flyover
SPOT the STATION:
Time: Thu July 17 - 5:11AM
, Visible: 4 min, Max Height 87° - Appears: SW, Disappears: NE
: Thu July 17 - 4.50AM
, Visible: 6 min, Max Height 58° - Appears: SW, Disappears:ENE
Here we have a full 21-minute
discrepancy (5.11AM versus 4:50AM) between the two “ISS-tracking portals”. This means that, if I had trusted the HEAVENS ABOVE “ISS flyover” timeline, I would have had to patiently hang around for 21 minutes , staring up in the empty sky, before finally witnessing the “ISS” appearance !
But it gets worse.
Here’s the comparison between the June 19, 2014 “ISS” Rome-flyovers – as published by the two sites. There was, according to both websites, one and only one visible “ISS” Rome-flyover that day.
June 19 – 2014 ROME flyover
SPOT THE STATION:
Time: Thu June 19 - 21:35
- Visible: 4 min, Max Height 51° - Appears: NNW, Disappears: ESE
Time: Thu June 19 - 22:11
- Visible: 5 min, Max Height 70° - Appears: WNW, Disappears:SE
Here we have a full 36-minute
discrepancy between what simply cannot be meant to be two different,
June 19 2014 Rome flyovers of the “ISS”. (Note: in a 36min time-frame, the "ISS" - as sold by NASA - should travel for ... 17.280 km!) So what exactly is going on here? If the HEAVENS ABOVE website is a joke (or NASA's own ISS website is a joke) what other jokes are they playing on us ?
Lastly, here's a screenshot from HEAVENS ABOVE - just to show that, according to their database, the "ISS" was visible over the Rome skyline for as many as FIVE times on a single day (June 7, 2014)
http://www.heavens-above.com/PassSummar ... 114&tz=CET
(verify this for yourself! Enter "Rome, Italy" as your location, and browse their ISS tracking page.)
Yet, NASA's "Spot the Station" alert service only sent me this single alert message back then !
Time: Sat Jun 07 (2014)3:19 AM, Visible: 4 min, Max Height: 64°, Appears: WNW, Disappears: SSE
Go figure. In any case, something doesn't add up here, folks. Should we perhaps contact "HEAVENS ABOVE" for clarification?