Mon, 30 Mar 2020
LOOK up into the night sky this week and you just might see the International Space Station (ISS) passing over.
It's been visible for the last few days, but cloudy skies have made it difficult to see in some parts of the country. However over the next few nights you will have plenty of opportunities to spot it.
The ISS is the largest space station/laboratory ever built and can be seen with the naked eye at certain times as it orbits Earth at 17,500mph at an altitude of roughly 200 miles.
It is a huge space station orbiting Earth that serves as an orbital laboratory, factory, testing ground and home, with crew members conducting experiments from biology to astronomy.
Spotting the space station is very easy and you don’t need any special equipment – just your eyes and a camera!
It always passes over starting from a westerly part of the sky, but not always from the same point. It can be low on the horizon for some passes and very high for others.
The ISS usually takes around 90 minutes to orbit Earth, so you can get two, or maybe even three or four passes in an evening or morning – both the ISS and Sun are in the ideal position to illuminate the spacecraft at this time. The light we see from the ISS is reflected sunlight.
The reason you can't see the ISS pass over during the middle of the day is because in the daytime the sky is too bright. Similarly, you cannot see the space station in the middle of the night because it is in the Earth’s shadow and no light is being reflected from it.
The ISS looks like an incredibly bright, fast-moving star and sometimes looks like an aircraft – although with few planes in the sky at the moment this is the ideal opportunity to spot it.
Unlike an aircraft, the ISS has no flashing lights and seems to just glide across the sky.
It is expected to be incredibly bright tonight, Monday, March 30, and the best time for spotting it is about 9.30pm. It will be very bright again tomorrow, Tuesday, March 31, at about 8.45pm.
There will also be opportunities on Wednesday, April 1, and Friday, April 3, at 9.30pm and a little earlier on Thursday, April 2, and Saturday, April 4, at 8.45pm.
Viewing times vary between one and five minutes.
Your next opportunity to spot it will be in May.