Ever dreamed of being an astronaut or taking a ride in a space station to see incredible views of our planet? At this moment there are six astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS), from the United States, Russia and Italy.
The ISS has been continuously orbiting earth with human occupants for almost 17 years now and these astronauts have quite a view! If you want to check out what the crew is doing when they're on duty and often get Earth views this is a live stream video from the ISS.
In the next couple of days in metro Detroit, we have the opportunity to turn the tables and look right back at them! We should get three good chances this weekend to watch the ISS fly over us here in metro Detroit. Friday evening, we'll have two shots as the skies will be in a clearing trend, at 7:38 PM and then again at 9:14 PM on its next orbit around earth. On Saturday night, our skies should be even clearer when it appears rocketing across the sky at 17,500 miles an hour at 8:22 PM and disappears 4 minutes later.
You don't need a telescope or weird glasses or even binoculars to see it. You should try to get yourself away from the brightest lights (standing directly under a street light is probably not good form here) and then just look in the direction that the little table below says to look. In case there's a minor difference between your clock and NASA's, you might want to start looking a couple of minutes earlier than the start time. This will also give your eyes some time to adjust to the darkness so you'll be able to see it better.
You want to look for a bright white object, brighter than nearly all stars, that isn't blinking but is moving steadily across the sky. It appears to move a bit more slowly than an airplane would, and you will not hear it at all.
The table below needs a little translating. The max height is the height of the ISS in the sky. The horizon is at zero degrees and directly overhead is ninety degrees. If you hold your fist at arm's length and place your fist testing on the horizon, the top will be at about 10 degrees. The higher the max height is for a flyover, the more likely you'll be able to see it over trees and buildings that could get in the way.
The "appears" and "disappears" tells you where you'll first be able to see it and then lose sight of it. On this evening's first flyover, the ISS can first be spotted in the southwest part of the sky (when there will still be twilight) at 59 degrees, or pretty high up in the sky, visible for 4 minutes until it goes away in the east-northeast part of the sky at only 10 degrees. You could lose it behind trees when it gets that low.
DATE/TIME HOW LONG VISIBLE MAX HEIGHT APPEARS DISAPPEARS
Fri Sep 29, 7:38 PM 4 min 80° 59° above SW 10° above ENE
Fri Sep 29, 9:14 PM 2 min 23° 18° above NW 22° above N
Sat Sep 30, 8:22 PM 4 min 30° 25° above WNW 12° above NE
If you can't catch one of these cool flyovers this weekend, here's where you can find other times when the ISS will be visible, weather-permitting of course, in metro Detroit. Happy hunting, space lovers!