Unidentified flying object identified

The Evening Telegraph, UK/December 15, 2009

By Tara Dundon

Is it a UFO? A Chinese lantern? No, it's The International Space Station (ISS) and it is causing a stir across Peterborough.

Evening Telegraph reader David Wagstaff, of Eye Road, Newark, Peterborough, sparked an astronomical debate after spotting a bright object in the sky moving quickly eastwards. while putting his bin out one morning.

He wrote to the ET and his letter was featured on Friday, suggesting that it was a UFO or meteor.

Since then, star gazers across the city have been writing in, keen to put the record straight.

Chairman of Peterborough Astronomical Society Martin Hall (36), from Delph Street, Whittlesey, was among those who wrote in.

Mr Hall has plenty of astronomical knowledge - he has been fascinated with the subject since he was five years old and saw pictures of Buzz Aldrin - the second person to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.

He said: "When I heard the rumours I knew it wasn't a UFO but the Internation Space Station (ISS).

"The ISS goes around the earth every 90 minutes but it just depends when it passes the sun as to whether it can be seen or not. It is generally when the sun is just coming up or has just gone down."

The ISS is about 250 miles into orbit and is roughly the size of a football pitch.

Mr Hall has seen the ISS a few times and describes it as looking like a really bright star.

He said: "When they started building it in 1998 it was quite faint and it is only since they have expanded it that it has become more visible.

"I believe there are five more shuttle missions still to be carried out, where three more pieces will be added to it.

"It is then proposed there will be a viewing platform so people will be able to get a 360 degree view of earth."

Mr Hall has seen everything from comets and meteors to shooting stars and galaxies - but doesn't believe there is any such thing as UFOs.

He added: "In my experience, there is an explanation for everything that can be seen in the sky."

If you want to find out more about the sky at night, Peterborough Astronomical Society meets on the first Thursday of each month at the Cedar Centre in Castor.

For more information about the ISS in Peterborough, visit

The International Space Station

The International Space Station is an internationally developed research facility currently being assembled in Low Earth Orbit.

On-orbit construction of the station began in 1998 and is scheduled to be completed by 2011, with operations continuing until at least 2015.

The station can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye and is currently the largest artificial satellite in Earth orbit, with a mass larger than that of any previous space station.

It serves as a long-term research laboratory in space, with experiments in fields including biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology being carried out daily in the station's microgravity environment.

It also provides a safe testing location for efficient, reliable spacecraft systems that will be required for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars.

More about The International Space Station on the NASA website.

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