The International Space Station moving from Gemini to Ursa Major on 23 November 2011 (Guernsey 60-second all-sky camera image)
Many people have expressed interest in seeing the International Space Station (ISS), which regularly passes through our skies.
The ISS appears like a very bright star moving from west to east, at an angular velocity similar to a plane, and taking a few minutes to cross the sky.
During morning passes, especially the very early morning ones, the satellite may be in the Earth’s shadow, and therefore invisible, for the first part of a pass.
Similarly, the satellite may enter the Earth’s shadow during the late evening passes, and disappear from view.
Note that many other, fainter, satellites are also visible. The ISS is by far the brightest, being as large as a football field.
International Space Station (left) preceded the Space Shuttle Endeavour, flight
STS-118 (right) by 3 minutes in this sequence taken on
Occasionally the Space Station passes in front of the Moon as in these two images taken on 16 February 2016 and 22 May 2016.
The International Space Station (left) preceded (by
about 20 seconds and 150 km) by the fainter Jules Verne Automated Transfer
Vehicle (ATV) on
They were passing above Polaris, and through Ursa Major.
A flare from the Iridium 95 satellite on 26 September 2006
The link below will take you direct to a page, configured for the latitude and longitude of St Peter Port, Guernsey, on the excellent "Heavens Above" web site which provides up-to-date predictions of the ISS and many other satellites.
Of special interest are flares from the Iridium satellites. You can get more accurate predictions for these flares by changing the location on the Heavens Above web site to your Guernsey parish, or Alderney, Sark or Herm.
Then click on “ISS” for Space Station predictions. The table then shows the local time, altitude (in degrees above the horizon) and compass direction to look when it first becomes visible; the time, altitude and direction when it reaches maximum altitude; and the time, altitude and direction when it disappears. In the evening the “end” time may be when it disappears into the Earth’s shadow; in the morning the “start” time may be when it emerges from the Earth’s shadow.
For predictions of Iridium flares we suggest you use the more precise locations given by the links below:
Also see: NASA ISS sighting information for Guernsey.
Satellite visibility predictions and topical astronomical information can also obtained by calling the astronomy newsline run by Astronomy and Space Magazine: tel 09001 881950. There is a charge for this service.
Launch of the last Space Shuttle Atlantis on 08 July 2011
The Space Shuttle rapidly disappeared into cloud, leaving just a smoke trail
Text and pictures © David Le Conte, 2006-2016
This page was last updated on 2016 May 25.