ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

When Can I See the International Space Station in 2014?

Updated on January 7, 2014
The International Space Station is overhead– maybe even over yours! –right now.
The International Space Station is overhead– maybe even over yours! –right now. | Source

That's No Moon, It's a Space Station!

If you paid attention to the news in January 2013, you read the White House's awesome reply to the petition to build a Death Star.

It mentions that we already have an enormous space station which, while it can't vaporize passing planets, is helping with breakthroughs in medicine, in plant cultivation, and in problems of human spaceflight (bone/muscle/vision loss, solar radiation, the breakdown of drugs) that we need to solve before we send astronauts to Mars.

The White House linked to NASA's Spot the Space Station page. There you can sign up for email or text message alerts notifying you of upcoming ISS flyovers in your area. (Note: ISS viewing opportunities are often days or weeks apart.)

But maybe you don't want to sign up with NASA for text/email alerts. Or, maybe, like me, knowing when to look up for the space station is only half the problem; you also need to know where to look to spot it!

Below, I'm going to recommend two great apps that I use to spot the International Space Station. But first, just in case you don't have a tablet/smartphone, here's a free website that will give you an ISS sightings timetable and sky chart.

(Just for fun: Cool Vimeo video on the ISS)

ISS Sighting Sky Chart for 2/8/2013

Here's Heavens Above's sky chart showing the path of the ISS at my location, starting tonight at 6:12 PM (18:12). I see that I can use Orion and Jupiter (which looks like a bright, white star) to orient myself.
Here's Heavens Above's sky chart showing the path of the ISS at my location, starting tonight at 6:12 PM (18:12). I see that I can use Orion and Jupiter (which looks like a bright, white star) to orient myself. | Source

Heavens Above!

Heavens Above is a free website that gives you up-to-date sky charts and timetables for sightings of the International Space Station, the planets, and various human-made satellites.

You must tell the website your location under the "Configuration" section. Try "select from database," which lets you search to see if it's already got you city/town's location. You'll have to configure your location every time you use the site, or else you can "Create new user account" which will save this information.

Once it knows where you are, then Heavens Above can give you predictions and a sky chart for your location. Here's what to do.

  1. Under "Configuration" on the main page, make sure it lists your location as the "Current Observing site." If it doesn't, log in or select your location.
  2. Under "Satellites," click the 10-day prediction for ISS link.
  3. Now you get a table of when the ISS will be visible in your sky at night.
  4. Look at the "Alt" column -- that's altitude. 90 degrees means straight overhead (which it almost never is); 70-90 is great. I wouldn't bother with 30 degrees or less, unless you live in a desert or clear sky area, because that's so close to the horizon that city lights, haze, and clouds tend to hide it.
  5. The times are given in local times in your area (assuming you've configured your location), but they're on a 24-hour clock, so, for example, 14:00 means 2PM (12 noon plus two hours).
  6. For a sky chart of each sighting, click on the DATE of that sighting. That will take you to a map of the night sky showing you the space station's exact path.
  7. Print out the chart, or, if you have a smartphone/tablet, be sure to do all this about an hour before the ISS appears so you'll have the chart ready in a browser tab.
  8. If you're not familiar with sky charts, go out at the same time on the night before and use the sky chart to help you identify obvious constellations so you can figure out in advance where the ISS will be. Hopefully, Cassiopeia (the big "W"), Orion, the Big Dipper, or a bright planet like Jupiter will be up so that you have something to lock onto. Notice that the sky chart marks the points of the compass — north, west, south, east — for reference.
  9. Constellations move a little each night, so be outside and ready fifteen minutes before the ISS rises, and use the sky chart to orient yourself and determine where the ISS will rise.
  10. Keep an eye on the clock, and look for a very bright white light moving sloooowly up from the horizon, passing overhead and sinking back down over the course of a minute!

This works, but the website is a little intimidating, with its black and white sky charts and timetables. Unsurprisingly, there's an app for that -- actually two -- which make it a cinch to know when the ISS will be in your area and where to look.

"ISS Spotter" Panes

Click "Forecast" at the bottom of the app to see the next International Space Station viewing opportunities at your location. NOTE: there's sometimes a few weeks gap between good viewing dates. If nothing's listed, check back in ten days.
Click "Forecast" at the bottom of the app to see the next International Space Station viewing opportunities at your location. NOTE: there's sometimes a few weeks gap between good viewing dates. If nothing's listed, check back in ten days. | Source
Set the lock icon at upper right to "off," unlocking the map's location so that you can pinch, zoom and pan. Otherwise, the map stays locked on the ISS' current position.
Set the lock icon at upper right to "off," unlocking the map's location so that you can pinch, zoom and pan. Otherwise, the map stays locked on the ISS' current position. | Source

"ISS Spotter" Free App

When can I see the international space station?

Here's what I use to find out: the free ISS Spotter app!

This app draws on the info sent out by NASA but untangles it into a schedule you can understand.

In the "Forecast" pane, you can check for upcoming space station viewing opportunities, set "Smart Alarms" that notify you in advance of good sightings when the ISS is high overhead.

WARNING: the alarm goes off about a minute before you need to be outside looking up! I set another alarm about an hour earlier to remind me.

The star rating system gives you a general idea how good (how high) the sighting will be. The degrees means degrees from horizon at the top of that flyover's path. 90 degrees means straight overhead, which it almost never is; 70 degrees and up is what you hope for. If the top of the arc is below 30 degrees, that means the ISS is going to stay low to the horizon, where it may be obscured by light pollution, haze or clouds.

The ISS Spotter app tells you when, but where do you look?

ISS on Night Sky App

That big huge red thing? Yep, that's the International Space Station. (Or the Hubble Space Telescope; zoom in on the icon to double-check.)  Toggle "satellite view" by clicking the third-from-left button at the top of the screen.
That big huge red thing? Yep, that's the International Space Station. (Or the Hubble Space Telescope; zoom in on the icon to double-check.) Toggle "satellite view" by clicking the third-from-left button at the top of the screen. | Source

NightSky App

Where can I see the International Space Station?

Rather than fumbling around with printed star charts, I use the NightSky App. It's available both for Android and for iOS. It's not free, but it's a great app.

NightSky shows you what constellations, planets, and stars are overhead (or even hidden by the Earth). Just aim the iPad at a part of the sky, and it shows what's in that direction.

The International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope are both indicated by large red "space station" icons. The name of the object only appears when you have it centered on the screen, so you may need to spread your fingers to zoom in on it.

The smaller icons are thousands of communications satellites, spy satellites, spent rockets, etc.

If you are not seeing the ISS, Hubble, and thousands of satellite icons, tap at upper left and click the third icon from the left, the satellite icon, to show all satellites and large Earth-orbiting space junk.

Once again, I recommend going outside about fifteen minutes abead of time and turning around slowly until you locate the ISS' current location (which will be below the horizon.) Also practice matching a bright star or planet you see on the screen with the actual sky. The ISS will be as bright as Venus, but you still need to know where in the sky to look for it!

Update: tonight (Feb 8), patchy clouds obscured the stars and nearly everything but Jupiter, but with NightSky, I knew exactly where to look. Below is a video I captured with the iPad (apologies for poor video quality). Below that is another YouTube member's video of another ISS sighting with a better camera.

My Vid of ISS Flyover

Someone else's with better camera

What THEY See: Amazing Video from International Space Station

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Paul 

      5 years ago

      I have seen many views of earth from the ISS, but I never grow tired of seeing them. Nice to see someone also interested in that.

    • anatomynotes profile image

      Edmund Custers 

      5 years ago

      Great view of earth from the ISS in the last video. Did you see all those lights? We need to turn off some.

      Thanks for sharing this with us! I will take a look tomorrow if I can spot the ISS.

    • Greekgeek profile imageAUTHOR

      Ellen 

      5 years ago from California

      It's been raining here for days, but the clouds parted JUUUST enough for me to see it last night... and thank goodness for NightSky; with patchy clouds in the way all I could see was Jupiter, but I knew just where to look to see the ISS coming up out of the trees!

      You're right, this would be fun for a party! (In fact the first time I did it was in December, visiting my parents in Utah where they had clear skies. We went out in the snow to watch it fly over, while sipping hot cider or cocoa.)

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      I saw it once, on a clear summer night in Park City Utah. A friend pointed it out. Thanks so much for showing us how to plan viewing it. What a great way to liven up an outdoor party! Voted up0 useful and interesting. Russ

    • EricDockett profile image

      Eric Dockett 

      5 years ago from USA

      I did see the response to that Death Star petition, and I thought the government's reasoning was flimsy at best. Bah! In any event, I always seem to fail and finding things in sky when they are supposed to be up there, so your Hub is very helpful.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)