Did You Know?

Linda Harvey

Our dark skies at SBR provide a wonderful opportunity to see the International Space Station (ISS). And you don’t even need a telescope as it is visible with your bare eyes.

The ISS is the largest artificial object in space and the largest satellite in low Earth orbit. It is about the size of a football field. Traveling at 17,500 miles per hour and 200 miles above us, it takes roughly 93 minutes to circle the earth.

The station serves as a space environment research laboratory in which scientific research is conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and many other fields. In addition, the station offers the ability to study the long-term effect of space travel on the human body.

The space station is visible because it reflects the light of the sun. However, the space station isn’t bright enough to see during the day. It can only be seen when it is dawn or dusk. Because of this, there could be one sighting opportunity a month, to several a week, since it has to be both dark where you are and the space station has to be going overhead.

NASA has a service that will only notify you of “good” sighting opportunities—that is, sightings that are high enough in the sky (40 degrees or more) and last long enough to give you the best view of the orbiting satellite.

If you are interested in receiving an email or text message about the “good” sighting opportunities, visit spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/index.cfm.

Several times a week, Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, determines sighting opportunities for over 6,700 locations worldwide. If your specific city or town isn’t listed, pick one that is fairly close to you. The space station is visible for a long distance around each of the listed locations.