Investing in Space

While you're stuck at home, here's how to spot the International Space Station above the US

Key Points
  • Take a break from looking at coronavirus news on your phone or TV, and look up to the sky at some fellow Earthlings flying 255 miles above you.
  • Wednesday night, like many other nights, you might get a view of the International Space Station, passing serenely overhead.
  • It will look like a fast-moving airplane, even though it is traveling in space at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour.
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle is pictured during a spacewalk in January 2018.
NASA

Take a break from looking at coronavirus news on your phone or TV, and look up to the sky at some fellow Earthlings flying 255 miles above you.

Wednesday evening, like many other nights, you might get a view of the International Space Station, passing serenely overhead.

Every day NASA sends out reminders for when you can see the ISS traveling above your residential area, for as long as six minutes. And spotting the ISS can be done easily while practicing safe social distancing from your backyard, or on a walk to a local park.

The New York City area on Wednesday will be able to see the ISS for about two minutes at 9:14 p.m. ET.

The space station, which has been aloft in the heavens for more than 15 years, orbits Earth 16 times each day, presenting multiple viewing opportunities.

VIDEO1:2901:29
New astronauts arrive at International Space Station

NASA's website "Spot The Station" shows where the ISS is in real-time. And by signing up for email or text alerts, the agency tells you when you can see it in your area.

The reminders tell the time the ISS becomes visible around your geographic area, the direction it is coming from, how long it will stay visible to the naked eye, and where it will be heading when it fades from your sight.

The station will look like a fast-moving airplane, even though it is traveling in space at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. Unlike stars, the ISS doesn't flicker.

Sightings can last as little as one minute or as long as six minutes, depending on the ISS's angle of travel relative to viewers on the ground.

The brightness of the ISS comes from its massive solar panels, which reflects the light of the Sun. As the third brightest object in the sky, the ISS becomes easy to spot once you know when and where to look.

The Canadarm2 robotic arm and robotic hand Dextre seen through the window of the International Space Station.
NASA

There are currently three crew members on the space station, which has been orbiting the world since the first piece of the ISS was launched in 1998.

The crew currently includes two Americans, astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, as well as one Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka.

Both Meir and Morgan have been tweeting out what they see below as much of the world is locked down due to the widening coronavirus outbreak.

"Even during our toughest times, we live on a beautiful planet. Stay strong planet Earth, we're in this together," Morgan said.

Meir shared a photo of Italy lit up at night, mentioning several of the country's cities by name.

"We can see that your spirit is strong and still shining bright," Meir said.

Morgan also celebrated "National Doctors Day," saying "I'm in awe of your selfless service."

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