In recent years, watch the International Space Station passing by has become one of my hobbies, not only for the hobby of spot it while passing at the right time over my location; it is more for the expectation and wonder to continually see this marvelous ship wandering above us, knowing that a group of people live and work there, it is a manifest of how magnificent human capacity is, and a clear example of the collaboration results when science is used for good ends and well-being.
During these moments when I can see it flying by over me, I always have this warmth feeling and peace, I really don’t understand why, but watching it is repeatedly a soothing experience for me.
But hey, let’s move on to some interesting stuff; so now, how can I see it? Well, first we must understand that being able to watch the ISS, we must have certain conditions, first and obvious, clear skies; but most important is to combine the Earth’s darkness at its surface while the sun still illuminates the ISS, in this way the ISS is observable as a bright star moving fast through the sky; these conditions occur right before or at dawn in the morning or on or after sunset in the afternoon. Now, with all this, how can I spot the station as it passes by over my place on earth?
Well, fortunately there’s a ton of resources that can help you, the internet is full of sites that can show you the ISS location at any given time, and here I will show you some of my favorite options.
The first resource I used is NASA’s Spot The Station, with which you can check the coming occasions when you can see the ISS; with this service you can as well receive automatic notifications once you register your location and email address (and for the US either using your phone number and receive SMS instead), the site will let you know the next time the ISS will be visible in your zone. These notifications will let you know hours in advance the next sight opportunity in your location, including date and time, duration of the sighting, max height over the horizon and coordinates where the ISS will appear and sets.
But how about get information for the next sight opportunity with days in advance for any place? Well, for this purpose you can go to the ISS Astro-viewer site where you can see the ISS position in real-time, but most important, selecting the “observation” tab on the site, you will be able to find the next Observation opportunity of the International Space Station for your location up to 10 days in advance. And another advantage in this site is that, different from NASA’s notification, here you will be able to find brief sight opportunities, which regularly aren’t reported by NASA’s service.
Another good resource is the ISS tracker which illustrates the current location and trajectory of the ISS, with indications of height, latitude and longitude, this site is a good source for a quick review.
There are as well applications for your mobile device, like ISS Spotter for iOS, or ISS Detector satellite tracker for Android ,both of them allows you to check coming sights and both include weather information to let you know if the conditions to see the ISS will be good in your place.
Well, now with these elements I think you will have a good set of resources to track and see the ISS. But hey, there’s more…
You can also see the Earth directly from the ISS in real-time, checking the live streaming feed through the ISS HD Earth viewing experiment, you can see this live feed through ISS HD Earth viewing experiment, or on my favorite High Definition Earth-Viewing System (HDEV), in here you can see your place as the ISS is passing by over you, of course, these views are available through areas on the planet where is still day, for areas at night you only will see a black screen. but now that you have the means to track the station, to check when you ca see live daylight stream won’t be a problem.
Well, there you have it, I hope you consider try to find the next sight on your place and marvel while this beacon of science and space habitat crossing above you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.