If you’re travelling under even moderately dark skies, the arrival overhead of the International Space Station is spell-binding – and now completely predictable
If you’ve ever noticed a bright, white light streaming high up in a clear sky just after sunset, you’ll know that witnessing the International Space Station (ISS) from 248 miles below it is one of the best things to look at in the night sky. Predicting its arrival while in the remotest corners of the globe is just one of the coolest things you can do while travelling – and all you need it a clear night in any city.
Best at twilight
At its brightest and best about an hour after the sun has dipped below the horizon but is still catching the solar panels of the orbiting laboratory, the ISS is unmistakable once you’ve seen it, but its orbit is rather erratic from our point of view.
ISS Spotter turns a chance encounter with the ISS into a regular, predictable event by plotting its progress on a world map. It also checks your own location and produces a list of that month’s exactly timed sightings (they usually come on 3-10 successive days every month or so) complete with optional alarm.
You’ll be surprised by its initial brightness; it streaks across the sky in about three or four minutes (and around the globe in just 90 minutes), and looks truly supersonic through a pair of binoculars, fading as it races east and away from the Sun’s rays. ISS Spotter is a great way to kick-start some stargazing.