World Space Week: How to view the International Space Station from your own window

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — One of my favorite things to see in the night’s sky is the international space station. Did you know that you don’t even need a telescope to see it? On a clear night, you can see the station just using your own two eyes!

Step 1: Sighting Opportunity

You’ll first need a sighting opportunity. While the ISS makes multiple orbits a day, it is not always visible. NASA has put together a cool website that shows you different opportunities for your location over a two-week period. 

Below is a snapshot of what the listing for a two-week period would look like for Savannah.

How to Decipher the Listing

This is for the information for Tuesday, October 6. It will be visible for 3 minutes, starting at 8:37 pm. The space station will have a max height of 59 degrees. It will appear in the northwest at 10 degrees and disappear in the northwest at 59 degrees.

Step 2: Finding a Good Spot

Once you get all that information, you’ll need to find a good spot to see it. The best time to see the space station is on a clear night without blocking obstructions. NASA also recommends viewing the ISS at dusk or at dawn when it is most visible. Next face the direction the space station will appear in.

What You will see in the Sky

First off, it will not look like as big as what you see in pictures. Instead, you will be looking for a white dot, slightly bigger than a star, moving quickly in one direction. It will sort of look like an airplane flying at night…except it won’t blink! 

Space Station flying over West Virginia – May 3, 2018

Step 3: Time to View International Space Station

When it is time to view the space station, this is when you’ll need to use the appearing and disappearing height degree.  This is the 10° and the 59° for the October 6th example.

When looking in front of us to over our head, it makes a right angle. 90° is directly overhead and looking straight ahead is practically 0°. Any degree in between means the station will appear between the horizon to above your head. 

To Find the Correct Height

If you are unsure of exactly where to look in the sky, you can also stretch your fist at arms length toward the horizon to help find the correct height. The top of your fist would be 10° while 4 fists from the horizon would be around 40° and so on and so forth. This will help you find the starting and ending location. When the ISS is at a higher angle, the better and easier it is to see!

Why we can see the Space Station

The international space station becomes so visible to us because it reflects the light from the sun, just like the moon. Each time it passes, it is in a different position at different time. Either its very dim and not visible or incredibly bright and visible for several minutes!

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