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Catch the Space Station This Week on TV and in the Skies Above

When the International Space Station is at its brightest, only the Sun and Moon can outshine it in the sky. Courtesy: NASA
When the International Space Station is at its brightest, only the sun and moon can outshine it in the sky. Credit: NASA

What’s it like to live and work in space? On Friday, March 14, at 8 p.m. EDT you will find out, thanks to an exciting two-hour live National Geographic TV Channel broadcast from the International Space Station (ISS) and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The National Geographic Channel, in partnership with NASA, are taking viewers from around the world on a spectacular television tour of the space station, courtesy of onboard astronauts. The astronauts will showcase how they live for months in space and conduct unique science experiments in the microgravity environment. Expect to see some jaw-dropping views of Earth below.

Coincidentally, lucky sky-watchers across most of the Northern Hemisphere, including North America and Europe, can see the manned orbiting laboratory make a series of very bright flybys in the early morning sky over the next week.

As long as you have clear or partially clear skies, the football-field-size station will appear as a bright white star, traversing the overhead sky in a matter of two to five minutes.

With more than 11 pressurized metallic modules, the ISS is the largest spacecraft ever constructed in space. This makes it highly reflective and therefore easily visible to the naked eye, even when viewed from light-polluted cities.

In fact, on some flybys, when the solar panels are oriented just right, the station’s brightness can be on par with that of the planet Venus, now shining like a beacon low in the east at dawn—the second brightest celestial object in the night sky after the moon!

On most nights over the next week or so, observers may see the ISS make two or even three flybys. Orbiting between 230 and 286 miles (370 and 460 kilometers) above the planet and traveling at 16,800 miles an hour (27,000 kilometers an hour), the station takes only 90 minutes to make one trip around the Earth, putting it in direct sunlight for many hours before observers see sunrise.

To know when and where in the sky to look for the space station, visit the flyby page of spaceweather.com.

For more sky-watching events, check out our weekly StarStruck column.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter,  Facebook, and his website.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the ISS is located 2,356 miles (3,800 kilometers) above the Earth. The ISS is much closer, between 230 and 286 miles (370 and 460 kilometers) away.

Comments

  1. Melissa R. Wells
    United States
    March 21, 8:38 pm

    I can’t find the live feed on my computer. I am watching it on cable, but how do i get it on my internet??? I’ve clicked on everything!

  2. David
    Home
    March 14, 6:26 pm

    Where do I access the broadcast? Is it only online, thru cable, Roku or other internet boxes?

  3. Dwayne LaGrou
    Lapeer, Michigan
    March 14, 5:54 pm

    If you happen to know an Amateur “Ham” Radio Operator you may get a chance to actually talk to the people on board the station. I have listened to many conversations from the ISS and I actually had the pleasure of talking to the Russian Cosmonauts while the Mir Space station was still orbiting for just a few minutes. It was a real thrill to have that quick chat, And most of the Astronauts are Ham Radio Operators. There are many scanners available to listen for them too, And it doesn’t cost much either.

  4. Grant Bennett
    United States
    March 14, 1:08 am

    Search for ‘Spot The Station’ to be able to sign up to get an email alert in advance telling you when the ISS will be orbiting and visible with the naked eye over your area!

  5. Andrew Fazekas
    March 13, 9:03 pm

    Yes indeed the altitude of the ISS orbit was off by a factor of ten. Fingers typed an extra zero. Thanks for the catch!

  6. Dan
    United States
    March 13, 2:57 pm

    The location of the ISS above earth is wreong.

    The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 km (205 mi) and 435 km (270 mi)
    Frim wikipedia.

  7. Mike Dearmond
    Louisville, KY
    March 13, 2:44 pm

    Please check the orbital altitude you have in your story. It appears to be off by a factor of 10.

  8. Landon Baur
    Seattle, WA
    March 13, 2:38 pm

    The ISS does not orbit a an altitude of 2,356 miles – it is only about 230 miles above the surface. It’s much closer.

  9. Jeff Thomas
    Hesperia, CA
    March 13, 2:35 pm

    ISS orbital altitude is approximately 260 miles (420 km).