The International Space Station (ISS) has been whizzing over our heads – albeit at a safe distance of 200 miles – for the last 14 years, acting as a space-based research lab for astronauts from around the world.
Indeed, the ISS recently celebrated 12 years of continuous occupation, with NASA announcing details of a new Spot the Station service to mark the occasion.
Spot the Station does what it says on the tin, giving us back on terra firma an opportunity to watch the ISS as it passes overhead. So how do we know when it’s overhead? Simple. Just sign up to Spot the Station here and a few hours before the ISS becomes viewable, you’ll be sent an email or text message letting you know.
The ISS happens to be the second brightest object in the night sky after the moon, and its size and proximity to Earth means you’ll be able to spot it without the need for binoculars or a telescope.
NASA explains on its website that the ISS is identifiable as a fast-moving point of light, similar in size and brightness to how Venus appears to us.
Commenting on the new Spot the Station service, William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said, “It’s really remarkable to see the space station fly overhead and to realize humans built an orbital complex that can be spotted from Earth by almost anyone looking up at just the right moment,” adding, “We’re accomplishing science on the space station that is helping to improve life on Earth and paving the way for future exploration of deep space.”
According to NASA, the ISS is typically viewable at dawn and dusk, and you can choose both or either when you sign up to the service, though if you go for the dawn option, consider your smartphone settings if you don’t want to be buzzed out of bed in the small hours as the ISS approaches.
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