Clay Center Observatory
A remarkable view of the International Space Station (and the Space Shuttle Atlantis, just left of center), taken from the Clay Center Observatory.
A remarkable view of the International Space Station (and the Space Shuttle Atlantis, just left of center), taken from the Clay Center Observatory. Clay Center Observatory
For the next two weeks, the International Space Station will be one of the brightest objects in the sky.
"It outshines all the stars, all the planets but Venus and actually gives Venus a run for its money," Kelly Beatty, Sky and Telescope's senior contributing editor, told Robert Siegel in today's edition of All Things Considered.
But if you want to get in on the action, you have to be prepared: the sightings last about a minute because the ISS is speeding at five miles per second. That lets it travel around the Earth in 90 minutes.
Beatty says it's worth the effort, though. Using simple binoculars, he said, you'll be able to make out the shape, because right now, the ISS is huge. It's now complete — all the pieces are where they should be — making it a shiny reflective object that's the size of a football field.
There's also no mistaking it, said Beatty. "The motion is very stately," he said. "You wouldn't mistake it for a meteor, because a meteor is just a momentary flash; you wouldn't mistake it for a plane, because they have blinking lights. Right now, it's a slam dunk to spot the Space Station."
OK, so how can you spot it? Beatty sent over three websites that let you input your city or zipcode and they spit out where and when to look:
You'll get the best look, said Beatty, when the Space Station passes right overhead.
And Beatty wants you to remember to wave. Six astronauts are on board, right now, on the ISS's 27th expedition.
Tune into your local NPR member station to listen to the full interview. We'll post the as-broadcast version of it, here, a little later on.