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Sighting Opportunities

Sightings Help

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Viewing Them from the Ground

Depending on your location on the Earth's surface, the spacecraft's position in orbit and the time of day, you may be able to see the International Space Station as it orbits about 386 kilometers (240 miles) above the planet. A spacecraft will be seen as a steady white pinpoint of light moving slowly across the sky.

The Flight Dynamics Officers in NASA's Mission Control Center use sophisticated computer software to predict when and where the space station will be visible to people on the ground.

Interpreting the Data
The text-based listing is in a column format, a sample of which is shown below:

ISSTue Nov 14/06:22 AM46610 above WSW31 above NE

The left column is the satellite. The next column is the local date and the local time. The third column gives the duration, or the length of time in minutes the spacecraft is expected to be visible, assuming a clear sky. The fourth column gives the maximum elevation the vehicle will achieve above the horizon (90 degrees is directly overhead). The fifth column tells the direction and elevation at which the spacecraft will become visible initially. The sixth column gives the direction and elevation at which the spacecraft will disappear from view.

IMAGE: Chart depicting a sighting opportunity.
This illustration is the sighting opportunity depicted in the table above.

Viewing Tips
For best results, observers should look in the direction and at the elevation shown in the appearing column at the time listed. Because of the speed of the orbiting vehicles, telescopes are not practical. However, a good pair of field binoculars may reveal some detail of the structural shape of the spacecraft.

This information provided by Glenn Research Center.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: Amiko Kauderer | Updated: 11/30/2011
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