A New App To Help Locate The International Space Station
As I write this, the International Space Station — a joint effort between 15 nations worldwide — is visible somewhere over China and it’s cruising fast.
A person in any given location only has four minutes or less to glimpse it, as it whizzes by up to 330 miles overhead. For those of you who aren’t NASA buffs, here’s a brief rundown of the history of the ISS. Originally the United States and Russia had planned to construct competing space stations, but budget crunches made those plans unfeasible, so the former Cold War warriors decided to play nice and work together on a joint venture.
The first module of what is the ninth space station to orbit Earth was launched in November of 1998, with a second launching the following month.
The first was named Zarya (that’s Russian for sunrise), and the second was named Unity. Since then other modules and equipment from the various contributing nations have been shot into space to grow the station to its current size, and that’s a good thing for those of us hoping to catch a glimpse, because the bigger it is, the easier it is to see from down here.
There are a couple of requirements for getting a peek at the ISS as it cruises across the sky. For one, you need to be between 52 degrees north and 52 degrees south of the equator in order to see it. Some cities that fall close to those two lines of latitude include Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Calgary in the north and the Falkland Islands at the southern tip of Chile in the south. Australia is wel positioned to see it frequently.
The next necessity has to do with timing. Because the ISS generates only negligible amounts of light, to see it, the sun needs to be shining on it. This generally limits viewing time to the hours around dawn and dusk, and even then, it’s a speedy spacecraft so you’ll have to have a sharp eye. How speedy, you ask? Try up to 28,000 kilometres per hour on for size.
It generally travels west to east, but depending on its current orbital trajectory, that doesn’t rule out other directional paths like northwest to southeast. The space station will look like a star speeding across the sky, and it will be visible for just four minutes tops, and sometimes as briefly as a minute flat.
One way to check when you can catch a glimpse of the ISS is to visit this Web site, which gives a breakdown of days and times the space station will be orbiting overhead. (It typically seems to drill down to the midsized-city level.) Once you’ve picked a scheduled flyby to view, it’s a good idea to head someplace where the sky is dark — especially if you live in a city — and bring a pair of binoculars with you.
Once you’ve spotted it, you can use the binoculars to get a closer view, and you can also experiment with photography. The ISS circles the Earth in about 90 minutes, so there are lots of opportunities if it takes you a while to hone your space station spotting skills.
Locate The ISS With Your Mobile Phone
The ISS FlyOver app tells you:
* when to look
* where to look
* Plain and Simple
Launch the app to see at a glance when the next opportunity to catch the ISS is going to be.
On first launch, pick your nearest city, or allow the app to pick it for you using your location. The app will remember your city and use it next time. You can change your preferred city at any time.
* When and Where
Know when and where to look. ISS FlyOver tells you:
- date and time of upcoming sightings
- how far off in days, hours, minutes
- which direction to start looking (North South East West)
- how high in the sky to look (Elevation in degrees)
- and how long the ISS will stay visible (Duration in minutes)
* Tell your Friends
Let your friends know when the ISS will fly over their city. Select their city, check the times, and let them know. Better still, tell them about the ISS FlyOver app.
* Data Connection
The ISS FlyOver app relies on a data connection to the internet. Sighting data is obtained from the publicly available NASA Human Space Flight sighting RSS feed.
This app is designed for both iPhone and iPad./ Note: I have downloaded and now use this app exclusively on my iPhone. I find it easier and quicker to find the times I need and I can of course use it while travelling or out in the field at any time I like. It is 100% Australian and very accurate. I personally recommend it. The cost??? How about a mere 99cents…Wow!!! Now go download it and get spotting. Go Here