On NASA’s Spot the Station Web site, you can now register to receive an alert a few hours prior to the time the International Space Station (ISS) passes within visual range of your location. You can specify the time of day (morning and/or evening) to receive alerts, as well as whether to receive them by e-mail and/or text message. Sighting times are calculated by Houston’s Johnson Space Center for more than 4,600 locations across the planet several times a week, and alerts are only transmitted when the ISS is high enough in the sky for viewers to really see it.
What’s the Big Idea?
At its current size, the ISS is now the third-brightest object in the night sky, and because it passes over about 90 percent of the Earth’s population, odds are good that anyone can catch a glimpse of it. Writer John Timmer verifies that even having a vague sense of where to look helps: “[I]t moves pretty quickly…[It’s] more important to be able to pick out something moving against a starry background than to have a precise sense of direction.”