SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — In this episode of Exploring the Atmosphere with Alysa, I’ll show you how to spot tonight’s International Space Station viewing! It’s one of my favorite things to see in the night’s sky! Did you know that you don’t even need a telescope to see it? Try it tonight – you’ll have to be fast because it’s only only in the sky for 4 minutes!

Tonight’s Viewing

You can spot the International Space Station at 8:55 pm starting low in the southwestern sky. It will be a FAST fly by – you’ll only have 4 minutes to spot it. It will track towards the northeast. The highest point the ISS will reach in the sky will be practically overhead at 89°. The viewing will end at 8:59 pm.

How to Find the Space Station

Finding a Good Spot

You’ll need to find a good spot to see it since it’s only viewable for 4 minutes. The best time to see the space station is on a clear night without blocking obstructions. We will have a few clouds in the sky tonight, so keep that in mind. Still not a bad night to try to find the space station. 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.  Tonight: 10° appearing in the southwest and 62° disappearing in the northeast.

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!