Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Sunday, April 17, 2011

International Space Station Sightings

(I hope these links work)
I watched the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday morning at 5:19 as it passed over Huntsville. Had a nice, clear sky and more than 5 minutes of viewing time. It was also visible over Huntsville the past few days, but the weather has been uncooperative. Here is a website that will let you find sightings for your location:
Click on your state, then the city you are closest to. It will give viewing information. For locations outside the US and territories, use the NASA Skywatch link here

ISS will be over Huntsville tonight 7:49 p.m. 5 min. duration, approach 10 deg S, max elevation 24 deg, departure 10 deg ENE. Also 9:27 p.m. less than 1 minute duration, approach 20 deg NW, max 20, depart 20 NW. Monday 8:14 p.m., approach 10 SW, max 69 deg, depart 10 NE (this one will not be directly overhead, but will give a good, high viewing).

Having trouble figuring out the elevation of the ISS? Your fist at arm's length measured from top to bottom is about 10 degrees. Stack your fists one on the other to get the elevation you need. Here is a helpful website:

I have observed that the times of duration of sightings here in Huntsville are actually longer than listed, so it is worth it to try even the short duration flyovers. I suppose it depends on where you are viewing and how far your location is from that posted on the website. Best location would be a high spot with low light and no trees or buildings to block your view. ISS has a magnitude of something like -4.5 or more (very bright), so it it quite bright. However, the moon might make it appear dimmer these next few nights. If you point yourself in the general direction of approach and scan the sky, you will see it pop into view. It moves along at a pretty good clip, but you will usually have time to spot it before departure when it will usually diminish in size and then just wink out.

It's cool.
Give it a try. If your night sky is too light, try driving a few miles away from urban locations and see if the dark sky quality improves. Pack some snacks, lawn chairs, and take a friend or a few. Have a sky party.


  1. I remember when there was but one artificial object up there. In the summer we would camp out on a hill and watch for it. Amazing!

  2. I should look out for this, I love looking uo at the stars and satellites, but its not very practical from the centre of Edinburgh,

  3. wow! thanks for the info...i'll definitely check this i love staring into the night. the moon...the stars...the planets...
    very cool!

  4. How interesting Melissa. I might have a chance from here as I live in the countryside but if you look at a satellite map of England, we are included in that christmas tree illumination that is London. I do like to spot satellites on very dark nights though. I remember the good old days when you could actually see the Milky Way without binoculars.

  5. RG: I can also remember the days of few manmade objects orbiting the earth. We have no hill on our property for viewing, but the kids and I often drag sleeping bags out to the front yard for star gazing.

    CGP: Hopefully you will be able to find a spot for observing the sky. Night viewing is really difficult now with all the artificial lighting. I've become a proponent of dark sky because there is so much wasted lighting that could be improved without risking people's safety if just done properly.

    FW/LK: I hope you find a good spot and enjoy the view.

    C: When my husband and I were first married in the 70's, we could go to his parent's farm and lie out in the front yard and see an astounding view of the Milky Way. The farm is about 50 miles from Nashville. Now, there is so much light pollution from the growth of Nashville, nearby cities and even small towns, that it is becoming difficult to see.