So, do we have any star gazers here? I am not an expert on constellations or star clusters and, in fact, I feel lucky when I identify the Big Dipper. And I’m really here today to talk about something other than stars in the sky. You all know that there’s an international space station (ISS) orbiting the earth, right? Well, how many of you know you can actually SEE it sometimes when it flies over your house?
This is a great thing to experience as a family or as a couple. My husband and I have been watching the ISS for a couple of years and it truly amazes us to look at this little light moving across the night sky and realize there are people inside that dot of light. If you haven’t seen it, it looks like a bright (brighter than a satellite), unblinking star moving across the night sky.
NASA offers schedules for ISS sightings in your area. Here’s the link:
Select your country, then your state or territory, then your city (or the nearest one listed). You’ll come up with a list that looks like this:
The local date and time tells you when. Duration tells you for how long it will be visible. Max Elev tells you how high in the sky it will be. Note: In case you don’t know, 90 degrees is straight up. Approach and departure give you the track it will follow. For instance, 28 degrees above NNW to 16 degrees above ENE says the space station will become visible at about 28 degrees height, looking to the NNW. It will follow a course that takes it ENE and disappear about 16 degrees above the horizon.
This is pretty bare bones information. I’m not an expert by any means and if someone has more insight into these details, I’d love to hear them.
Watching the ISS gets even cooler when the Shuttle launches. I don’t know how many more of those we’ll have an opportunity to see, but I’ve been privileged to see the space station pass overhead with this slightly less brighter object behind it—the Shuttle. It’s an amazing sight!
So the next time you think to look up at the night sky, check the schedule. You might just catch science in action.