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Space Station & Astronomy

A look at when you can spot the ISS and other night sky features
The International Space Station flies over the North America.
The International Space Station flies over the North America.(WDBJ)
Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 12:53 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 25, 2020 at 9:28 PM EDT
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There’s nothing more fun than checking out stars, satellites and planets on a clear, crisp night. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite links so you can experience the joy of being a sky watcher.

OBSERVING WEATHER

There’s always something to look for every single night, but sometimes the weather just doesn’t want to cooperate. We’ve put together a sky chart which looks at cloud cover, precipitation chance and relative humidity which may indicate haziness. Ideally, you’ll want to look for shades of blue during your observing time on the chart. Keep in mind, this is a model-based forecast, or an estimation of what may happen. Each area is going to be a little different depending on the weather pattern. Good luck!

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

The International Space Station looks like an airplane or a very bright star moving across the sky, except it doesn’t have flashing lights or change direction. It will also be moving considerably faster than a typical airplane (airplanes generally fly at about 600 miles per hour; the space station flies at 17,500 miles per hour).

Get the upcoming viewing time below. Data comes from NASA’s Spot the Station and will typically only show the best sighting times greater than 1 minute.

Space Station Resources
Search Space Station viewing times

Get the latest times to see the Space Station in your hometown.

Space and astronomy resources
Where is the Space Station Now?

Interactive Space Station viewer.

Space and astronomy resources

SPACE STATION TERMS

Time is when the sighting opportunity will begin in your local time zone. All sightings will occur within a few hours before or after sunrise or sunset. This is the optimum viewing period as the sun reflects off the space station and contrasts against the darker sky.

Visible is the maximum time period the space station is visible before crossing back below the horizon.

Max Height is measured in degrees (also known as elevation). It represents the height of the space station from the horizon in the night sky. The horizon is at zero degrees, and directly overhead is ninety degrees. If you hold your fist at arm’s length and place your fist resting on the horizon, the top will be about 10 degrees.

Appears is the location in the sky where the station will be visible first. This value, like maximum height, also is measured in degrees from the horizon. The letters represent compass directions -- N is north, WNW is west by northwest, and so on.

Disappears represents where in the night sky the International Space Station will leave your field of view.

SATELLITE VIEWING

There are thousands of satellites in the sky at one time and many of them are visible if you know where to look. Many of the satellites orbit at an altitude of approximately 22,000+ miles above the Earth’s surface.

Here are a few resources to spot the satellites visible.

Satellite Resources
Virtual Satellite Viewer

See what a satellite would look like from your location.

Space and astronomy resources
Satellites Visible In Your Area

Get all the satellite passes over your location.

Space and astronomy resources

SUN & PLANETS

Planetary Links
Which planets are visible tonight?

That bright star in the sky could be a planet.

Space and astronomy resources
(Near) Real-time Sun Viewer

See what's happening on the sun today.

 One of over 425 million high-resolution images of the sun taken by NASA’S Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Source: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, CNN)

METEOR SHOWER CALENDAR

PEAK VIEWINGMETEOR SHOWERNOTES
AUGUST 11-12, 2020PERSEIDSThe Perseids are one of the brighter meteor showers of the year. They occur every year between July 17 and August 24 and tend to peak around August 9-13.
OCTOBER 7-8, 2020DRACONIDSThe Draconid meteor shower, also sometimes known as the Giacobinids, is one of the two meteor showers to annually grace the skies in the month of October.
OCTOBER 20-21, 2020ORIONIDSOrionids are active every year in October, usually peaking around October 20/21. At its peak, up to 20 meteors are visible every hour.
NOVEMBER 16-17LEONIDSThe shower is called Leonids because its radiant, or the point in the sky where the meteors seem to emerge from, lies in the constellation Leo.
DECEMBER 13-14GEMINIDSGeminids are considered to be one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, with the possibility of sighting around 120 meteors per hour at its peak.
DECEMBER 21-22, 2020URSIDSThe Ursids meteor shower is active annually between December 17 and December 24. The shower usually peaks around December 23. At its peak, observers may be able to view as many as 10 meteors in an hour.
JANUARY 2-3, 2021QUADRANTIDSThe Quadrantids are usually active between the end of December and the second week of January. Unlike other meteor showers that tend to stay at their peak for about two days, the peak period of the Quadrantids only lasts a few hours.
APRIL 21-22, 2021LYRIDSNamed after constellation Lyra, the Lyrids are one of the oldest recorded meteor showers, according to some historical Chinese texts, the shower was seen over 2,500 years ago.
MAY 5-6, 2021ETA AQUARIDSThe Eta Aquarids is one of two meteor showers created by debris from Comet Halley. The Earth passes through Halley’s path around the Sun a second time in October. This creates the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks around October 20.

Peak night dates are based on local time. Times do not guarantee visibility. Visibility is based on weather and astronomical conditions.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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