On NASA’s Spot the Station Web site, you can now register to receive an alert a few hours prior to the time the International Space Station (ISS) passes within visual range of your location. You can specify the time of day (morning and/or evening) to receive alerts, as well as whether to receive them by e-mail and/or text message. Sighting times are calculated by Houston’s Johnson Space Center for more than 4,600 locations across the planet several times a week, and alerts are only transmitted when the ISS is high enough in the sky for viewers to really see it.
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What’s the Big Idea?
At its current size, the ISS is now the third-brightest object in the night sky, and because it passes over about 90 percent of the Earth’s population, odds are good that anyone can catch a glimpse of it. Writer John Timmer verifies that even having a vague sense of where to look helps: “[I]t moves pretty quickly…[It’s] more important to be able to pick out something moving against a starry background than to have a precise sense of direction.”