Your Science Mission #1: Spot the Space Station
By Emily Chung
Want to be a scientist? Here’s your chance. Accept each mission to observe and explore cool science in the world around you. Report back on your experiences and observations— we’d love to hear about them.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to spot International Space Station in the night sky and wave to the astronauts on board.
If you look carefully among the stars and planets, you may see some “stars” that appear to be moving across the sky, almost like faraway airplanes. Those are man-made satellites orbiting the Earth.
The biggest, brightest one is the International Space Station, where astronauts are living, working, and possibly looking out the window at you right now. Because it has so many solar panels that reflect sunlight, the ISS is the brightest object in the night sky other than the moon.
Even so, it can be hard to find. That’s because it moves around a lot, circling the Earth almost 16 times a day. It’s hard to know when it will pass overhead and what part of the sky it will be in.
Fortunately, there’s a tool that can help you find it: NASA’s Spot the Station website. You can enter your country, province, and city or town (or a nearby community within 80 kilometres) to find out what time, what compass direction and how high in the sky to look.
The station should look like a very bright star or planet moving across the sky. When you see it, don’t forget to wave!
Emily Chung is a journalist in Toronto who loves exploring. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry.