Look! Up in the Sky! It's a dot! It's a speck! It's the ISS!
February 16, 2014 8:47 PM   Subscribe

When can I spot the Space Station? The International Space Station can easily be spotted with the naked eye. Because of its size (110m x 100m x 30m) it reflects very much sunlight. This simple tool will tell you all of the opportunities you can view the ISS over the next ten days, along with a brightness index and a map tracing its transit across your local sky. The red line shows where the ISS is sunlit and visible. On the blue line the ISS is in the Earth's shadow and invisible or it is less than 10° above the horizon.

Also, Where is the International Space Station right now?: This is the view from the ISS directly down to earth. The crosshair indicates the current ground point. The map is updated every second.
posted by not_on_display (29 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neato! Thanks!
posted by chinston at 9:03 PM on February 16


People who enjoy this may also enjoy Heavens Above.
posted by wierdo at 9:13 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


it reflects very much sunlight.

Wow.
posted by arcticseal at 9:29 PM on February 16 [12 favorites]


Sun, Febr. 16, 2014
No visible passes
Mon, Febr. 17, 2014
No visible passes
Tue, Febr. 18, 2014
No visible passes
Wed, Febr. 19, 2014
No visible passes
Thu, Febr. 20, 2014
No visible passes
Fri, Febr. 21, 2014
No visible passes
Sat, Febr. 22, 2014
No visible passes
Sun, Febr. 23, 2014
No visible passes
Mon, Febr. 24, 2014
No visible passes
Tue, Febr. 25, 2014
No visible passes
Wed, Febr. 26, 2014
No visible passes
Thu, Febr. 27, 2014
No visible passes

So, looks like I'm outta luck.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:51 PM on February 16


Cool! And decent intensities for the 17th and 18th from here. Brighter than Rigel or Betelgeuse.

Heavens Above is definitely also awesome, but it's worth noting that the first thing you have to do is hit the change location link before you get going on looking for the ISS or just about anything else in orbit (except Misty. Never Misty..)

A month or two back my ex-girlfriend and I pulled an early evening peak hour satellite spotting session with each of us on the phone, me at home on heavens-above calling in azimuths and altitudes, and her lying in her driveway 30kms away spotting them as they came over. "Soviet Rocket Body!" "Check" "Atlas Rocket Body!" "Check" "Onyx!" "Spooky!" "Intruder pair!" "Scary!" Copernicus! Copernicus! Copernicus!" "Aw, beautiful.."

Pure fun.
posted by Ahab at 9:58 PM on February 16 [4 favorites]


Thanks, wierdo, for the link to Heavens Above. Yes.
posted by not_on_display at 10:35 PM on February 16


Scientists to Create Coldest Spot in Universe on Space Station
posted by homunculus at 11:08 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Heavens Above is cool, but for some reason, Malwarebytes will not let me see the links in the post.
posted by scottymac at 11:16 PM on February 16


NASA will send you customized email alerts!
posted by Room 641-A at 12:33 AM on February 17


I use an Android app called ISS Detector to find data for the ISS, Iridium flares, and other satellite-related things. I used it the other night to see the Chinese space station. The same night, I got to see the ISS through my fancy new 10x50 binoculars. I could see the rectangular shape. At least, that's what I told myself.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:44 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I wish there was one of these for the Satellite of Love.
posted by valkane at 3:08 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


This isn't new, kids, we were watching Telestar 50 years ago (and, it's still out there). Bonus: Back then we gave our space objects their own song!
posted by HuronBob at 3:16 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I tried photographing the ISS a while back. Unfortunately the result ended up looking more like a turkey than a space station. I'll have to try to catch it again some time soon and see if I can do better, but it just moves unbelievably fast.
posted by edd at 3:52 AM on February 17 [2 favorites]


I was on the bridge of a supply boat, heading east, and saw this huge, what I thought was a v/l, on the horizon. I couldn't figure out what the lights were, so I was thinking, must be something being towed that's so huge I can't even see the v/ls doing it yet. Bumped the radar up to 24 nm, nothing showing up. Bumped it up to 48, still nothing. At this point you I'm way beyond being able to see what would be at the horizon, unless it was over 100m in the air. I check my position on the chart, in an area that I've been over many times before, and know there is nothing there, go back to look at the object again, and it's now hanging over the horizon. "God damn it, that's the ISS!" I exclaim. In the morning, when the Captain comes up, I tell him about it, thinking it would get a laugh, and he say, "Yeah, I've done that too, but it was the Sun."
posted by SpannerX at 4:24 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Iridium flares are the coolest. With some planning and practice, you can be outside at night with a friend, point at the sky and say "I COMMAND THEE..." just as a point of light appears, brightens and fades.

And by friend, I mean person you wish to impress for despicable purposes later that same evening.

Science.
posted by Devonian at 5:03 AM on February 17 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Iridium flares are really neat. Often brighter than the ISS and way less regular. I've gotten pretty good at picking out satellites just after dusk with the naked eye (as in I'm standing outside just after dusk with no other reference), but you can't really do that with Iridium flares because they are at crazy angles to the sun, unlike most visible satellites.
posted by wierdo at 6:10 AM on February 17


If you want to, Spot the Station will send you an email alert whenever the ISS is going to be visible at your location. It usually sends out a message in the morning when the ISS is visible around sunset and in the evening when the ISS is visible around sunrine
posted by DreamerFi at 6:56 AM on February 17


sunrise, that is. silly typo
posted by DreamerFi at 7:12 AM on February 17


I lucked out the last flight of the shuttle, stepped outside in the evening, it was clear, two very bright starts chasing across the sky. Two minutes. Just wonderful, a bit sad as it was the end of an era.
posted by sammyo at 7:58 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Here is an interesting list of very old artificial satellites which are still in orbit and visible. I was surprised to learn that Vanguard 1, launched in 1958, is still in orbit (although unfortunately not transmitting).
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:59 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I've got the Skyview app on my iPhone. It's pretty neat as it'll allow you to locate not only the ISS, but pieces of flotsam and jetsam like discarded rocket stages.
posted by valkane at 8:23 AM on February 17


I've introduced the neighbor kids to ISS sightings... a couple things that impressed them:

- Pick a pass where the ISS goes into the earth's shadow and tell them what is going to happen.

- This is rare, but pick a pass when a resupply ship is near docking or just released. Seeing the two spacecraft flying in formation flaunts the engineering magic.

I've wanted to show them two passes on the same night but mom's bedtime rules nixed that.
posted by tinker at 9:03 AM on February 17


From homunculus' link: If the temperatures are low enough, researchers may also be able to assemble quantum wave packages as wide as the human hair — "big enough for the eye to see," according to Thompson.

I don't even know what that is, and it sounds incredibly cool.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:02 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Amazingly, NASA's J-Track is still operational.

It needs Java to run, but will show you everything large flying around the planet, including the default satellite named STATION (aka ISS)
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:40 AM on February 17


Thanks Kadin 2048, that list is gold - especially for the descriptions of how various objects behave and what that means visually for an observer.
posted by Ahab at 5:20 PM on February 17


I found the "NORAD Catalog" numbers given in that file interesting ... here's an online version of the catalog.

Random cool stuff: currently they are up to number 39,505, which is an Atlas 5 Centaur rocketbody, launched on 1/24; it carried one of NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellites. (Awesome launch photo.) The body seems to have been left in its current orbit when the satellite itself separated on its way to geosync. I can't figure out what the decay time is for it though; maybe they haven't calculated it yet since it's so new.

Quite a few rocket bodies on the list seem to be left from geosynchronous orbit placement missions, I guess just because of the altitude/dV that you need for geosync necessitating the last boost stage being well into stable-orbit territory...?
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:12 PM on February 17


Wolfram Alpha knows about the ISS's position, too. You can also ask it things like "when is the next rise of the ISS at my location", etc.
posted by markshroyer at 4:23 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I've used this tool to run outside and see the ISS pass overhead. It was fun! I waved.
posted by ErikaB at 10:20 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


What do these nighttime satellite photos reveal about civilization?
posted by homunculus at 6:06 PM on March 3


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