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Clear skies for Space Station pass

Observers of this Thursday morning's exceptional flyover by the International Space Station will enjoy clear skies if the current forecast holds up.

This is also an opportunity to see the moon and Mars in close conjunction. The space station will fly right past them both.

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Just before 6 a.m. (yeah, it's early, but this one's worth it), the space station will fly almost directly over Baltimore as it zips in from the northwest and out over the Altantic toward the southeast. The station is flying at about 17,500 mph, at an altitude of 220 miles.

There are two crew members on board, one Russian, one American, referred to by NASA as Expedition 11. They are Commander Sergei Krikalov and Flight Engineer/Science Officer John Phillips.

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Here are the details. Set your alarms.

Look above the northwest horizon at 5:54 a.m. EDT for a bright, fast-moving star-like object. It will be traveling toward the southeast, passing almost directly overhead for the Baltimore area at 5:57 a.m.

Just it passes the zenith (directly overhead), the station will pass the moon, which will be standing between the zenith and Mars, the bright, sort of reddish "star" just south of the moon (by 5 degrees, or the width of five fingers held at arm's length). And, just after passing the moon, the ISS will slide right down the "belt" of Orion - the three-in-a-row stars more familiar to stargazers in the evening skies during the winter and spring.

The space station will finally pass out of sight low in the southeast at 6:02 a.m.

The station should be bright enough to be visible everywhere in the region, even amid urban lights and the approaching dawn. (Sunrise on Thursday will be about 6:30 a.m. EDT)

For more information about this pass and others this week, visit Heavens-Above.com No need to register. Just click on "Select" and enter your community. Then click on "ISS" to obtain space station flyover predictions for your location. There's lots more great stuff on that page. Explore.

This week's ISS passes are all in the early morning. But for Baltimore, (if skies stay clear) the 6 a.m. flyover on Thursday will be the highest and the brightest of the bunch. Be there, and take the kids with you.

And when it's over, come back to the WeatherBlog, leave a comment and let us know what you saw. I'll post them all as soon as I get in.

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