The International Space Station (ISS) is frequently visible from Connecticut in the early evening or pre-dawn hours. Read on to learn how you can spot it as it flies overhead.
The International Space Station is the largest man-made object in space, spanning more than 350 feet from end-to-end. Six astronauts and cosmonauts from various nations staff the orbiting complex most of the time.
When conditions are right, the station is visible as a bright star in the sky — even when there is a full moon. Timing is everything to seeing it and a number of websites and apps can help you know where to look — and when.
A good first stop is Heavens-Above.com — a tremendous resource that tracks the best times to catch the ISS and other orbiting spacecraft based on your location. Click here to view approximate ISS flyover dates and times for Harford. The site can be configured to a specific location, and will even remember those settings when browsing other orbiting satellites. It will output upcoming sighting opportunities as follows:
The components to look for are the start and end times, the azimiuth (compass position) and magnitude. The middle max altitude section will indicate how many degrees in the sky to look when the station is at its highest point.
Look at both the start and end azimuth to figure out what path it will take in the sky, followed by the altitude to give a rough idea as to how many degrees above the horizon to look. The magnitude will indicate the predicted brightness of the pass. The lower the number the better, so a -3 is brighter than a -1.
Another great tool for iPads and iPhones is an app called Star Walk that overlays a realtime augmenting reality view of the night sky to track exactly where the ISS and many other satellites (both natural and manmade) are at any given point in time.
We captured this -2.5 magnitude pass on Aug. 17 in this YouTube video:
Don’t worry about being too precise in your measurements. When it does pass over it’s hard to miss and will easily be the brightest object in the sky. Although the station is traveling faster than a bullet its height gives the appearance of moving very slowly and should be visible for 3 to 5 minutes. The reason the station is so bright is due to its size and the very reflective solar arrays that power the outpost. The station reflects the sunlight it receives from its high altitude, making for a bright artificial star shortly after sunset or before dawn.
We look forward to seeing your photos and videos! Send them to us on our Facebook page and don’t forget to wave at the astronauts as they pass by.