International Space Station Fly-Over / Iridium Flare

I usually don't bother posting these because they're pretty quick.  But if you're outside around 5:20pm tomorrow (Tuesday, December 4) and looking to the southwest, you might see a bright "star" moving across the sky and on to the northwest.  That would be the International Space Station.

The way to tell you're looking at the space station and not an airplane is that the space station will be a steady, white light.  No red flashers.  No changes in direction.  No sound of jet or propeller engines.  Just a white point of light, silently gliding to the northwest.

Get out there a few minutes before the scheduled time to let your eyes dark-adapt.  You won't be able to see any detail, and it typically moves too fast to easily track with a telescope.  But just think of the wonder of people actually living on that little spot of light.

Added 12/4:  I checked the website, Heavens Above, which tracks various satellites.  Turns out we get a bonus:  About five minutes before the ISS flyover, there's going to be an Iridium Flare high off to the northeast.

Iridium satellites are used by satellite phone servers.  They're highly reflective, so if you catch one at the right angle, they light up to be brighter than Venus.  Like the space station, there'll be no flashing red lights or engine noise associated with an Iridium flare.  All you'll see is a point of light, silently moving silently across the sky.  This one will reach magnitude -5, which is substantially brighter than Venus, but not nearly as bright as the moon.

By contrast, the ISS will be relatively dim (as in hundred of times dimmer.  But it will still appear as one of only about two dozen objects bright enough to be seen in the light polluted sky of Los Angeles.