With the advice of another radio operator, I checked out heavens-above.com, after hearing about APRS via ISS. I found out that in a few days, Dec 8th 2009, the ISS would pass almost directly overhead, at about 5:50 in the morning, with a magnitude of 3.5.
I don't bust out the telescope very often, but this sounded like a good time. I braved the 36 degrees, and got myself setup for a breif show. The report said it would emerge from shadow at 05:47:10 in the SW, and disappear at 05:54:45 in the NE.
I decided against the radio this time, because I haven't even seen the ISS yet. I quickly assembled my telescope and deployed in my backyard. I was worried about the light pollution, and the half moon interfering with the view.
I started gazing into the area that it would appear. A bright solid light appeared, but because I wasn't watching my watch, I initially thought it was an airplane of some sort. It got to about 25-30 degrees before I got my telescope on it. It is very difficult to track without a motor drive. I probably would have gotten a better view of it, if I would have locked onto it sooner. Once it gets closer to overhead, forget the telescope, it is really hard to track when it is up above you.
When I did see it through the telescope, I could tell it wasn't a round object, like it had 3 distinct oval lobes. That kind of image makes since when you look at the design of the ISS.
I tracked it until I lost it behind a tree, but by that point it was only 3 or 4 degrees above the horizon. I had the laptop up, and realized it was over North Dakota be the time I lost sight of it. If it has that much of an area that people can see it with, the communications potential for Ham Radio must be awesome.
I look forwards to joining into Ham Radio via Satelites. Thank You Rex (N7NGM)