The International Space Station (ISS) is back. You can now view it during convenient evening hours for the next few weeks from the U.S. and other locations. Watch for the station to first appear in the western sky looking like a brilliant star with a yellow hue.
Traveling toward the east at 4.8 miles per second (7.7 km/sec) it takes between 3-7 minutes to complete its circuit depending on its height above the horizon during a particular pass. Overhead passes last longest.
Since it takes only about 90 minutes for the craft to orbit Earth, if you see it on a first pass in early twilight, you’ll often get to a second pass around nightfall. During the summer months, a combination of high sun angle and brief nights allow skywatchers to spot the station on every pass or some 5 times in one evening!
The 6-man crew of the station has been busy this week with a variety of projects including determining astronaut energy requirements for long-duration stays in space and the BASS experiment. BASS - Burning And Suppression of Solids - studies how materials burn and extinguish in the microgravity of space. What the crew learns will lead to better spacecraft materials as well as new ways of putting out accidental fires in space and on Earth.
ISS viewing times below are for the Duluth, Minn. region, but you can always get times for your city by logging into Heavens Above and selecting your city or plunking your zip code into Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys site. Or you can make your life easy by signing up to NASA’s Spot the Station. You’ll get an e-mail or text message in advance of easily visible flybys over your town.
For Duluth, Minn. and region:
* Tonight April 7 starting at 9:16 p.m. across the southern sky. Visible for 3 minutes. Enters Earth’s shadow at 9:19 p.m. and quickly disappears from view.
* Mon. April 8 at 8:27 p.m. in twilight. Low pass across the south and southeastern sky. Visible for 5 minutes. Second pass at 10:02 p.m. Visible for 2 1/2 minutes. Comes up in the western sky and enters Earth’s shadow at 10:05 p.m.
* Tues. April 9 at 9:12 p.m. Spectacular pass across the top of the sky. Very bright! Visible for 5 minutes.
From Night to Day to Night Again – a two-and-a-half minute video taken from the ISS of the Earth from orbit
* Weds. April 10 at 8:21 p.m. in twilight. Another brilliant pass high in the southern sky. Flys very close to Sirius, the brightest star, about 8:23 p.m. Visible for 6 minutes. Second pass across the northern sky at 9:58 p.m. Visible for 4 minutes before disappearing in Earth’s shadow.
* Thurs. April 11 at 9:08 p.m. High, bright pass in the northern sky. Visible for 6 minutes.
* Fri. April 12 at 8:17 p.m. Brilliant pass across the top of the sky. Visible for nearly 7 minutes. Second nice pass at 9:54 p.m. across the north.
* Sat. April 13 at 9:03 p.m. across the northern sky. Visible for 6 minutes.
If you’re up early for work tomorrow and have a good view of the eastern horizon, start the day with a smile by watching for the very delicate crescent moon just 2 days from new.