Today we learned you can see the International Space Station from Australia. However, there is a caveat: it can only be seen when the sun is asleep. As such, sighting opportunities can range from one a month to several a week.
If you already knew this, great, as you were. But for those who were also living under a rock, like us, this is what you need to know.
What is the International Space Station?
The International Space Station (ISS) is a multi-nation modular space station that sits in low Earth orbit. Main construction of the ISS was completed between 1998 and 2011, but the Space Station continually evolves to include new missions and experiments. It has been continuously occupied since November 2, 2000, and celebrated its 20th anniversary of constant use in November last year.
The Space Station is 109 metres end to end. It weighs nearly 420,000 kgs and moves at a speed of 28,000 km/h.
(Earlier this week we reported the ISS actually got bumped a little by a Russian crew, yikes).
Where is the ISS?
Well, obviously it’s in space, but to be specific, the Space Station flies at an average altitude of 400 kms above Earth.
It circles the globe every 90 minutes (in one day, the station travels about the distance it would take to go from Earth to the moon and back). Most spacecraft can arrive at the space station anywhere from six hours to five days after launch.
The space station can rival Venus in brightness and appears as a bright moving light across the night sky. It can be seen from Earth without the use of a telescope by those who know when and where to look. Luckily, we now know how.
How to See the Space Station
NASA’s ‘Spot the station’ website is continuously updated to show when you can expect the ISS to make an appearance in your part of the world.
We’ve set the location for New South Wales.
Thursday, October 28 at 9:44 pm AEDT is the next time the Space Station will be visible. (It is expected to be visible for 1 minute!)
Unfortunately, Thursday’s sighting isn’t what NASA considers optimal viewing.
NASA says flyovers that will reach a max height of at least 40° provide the best chance for a sighting opportunity, because they are visible above most landscapes and buildings.
The next flyover is expected to hit 13°, appearing 10° above south and disappearing at 13° above south.
For the rest of the month, we can expect another Space Station flyover to happen on Friday (October 29), at 8:58 pm AEDT; and the night before Halloween (October 30) at 9:45 pm AEDT at a height of 21°.
November, however, is when we can see some real action.
On November 1 at 8:11 pm AEDT we can see the ISS for 4 minutes at a max height of 15° (it will appear at 10° above south and disappear at 10° above east-southeast). And the next night, November 2, 9:00 pm AEDT will give us viewing for another 4 minutes but at a max height of 65° (it will appear at 10° above southwest and disappear at 62° above east-southeast).
Happy sighting, folks!