Tracking the International Space Station and satellites

I have always been fascinated by the night sky and I still marvel that we can track moving objects across the darkness with the naked eye. There is something particularly special about tracking the third brightest object in the sky – the International Space Station. It’s both weird and wonderful to think that there are actually people up there.

The International Space Station or ISS as it is better known, looks like an aeroplane or a very bright star moving in a straight line across the sky, except it doesn’t have flashing lights or change direction. It will be moving considerably faster than a typical aeroplane which generally fly at about 600 miles per hour; the space station flies at 17,500 miles per hour.

This link will take you to the NASA Spot the Station website where you can find your next viewing opportunity.

Right now, there are nearly 6,000 satellites circling our tiny planet, so you don’t need to wait for the ISS. On any given night, if it is dark and the moon is new or low, you can always see several satellites. Just look in the same spot for a few minutes and you will be rewarded with tiny dots of light moving in the same direction across the sky. You’ll know it’s a satellite as they won’t have flashing lights. Some appear for a minute or so, others take several minutes to move from horizon to horizon. You’ve heard of train spotting – welcome to the amazing world of satellite spotting.

Login or Register to comment

Share this article