Spot the International Space Station

A view of the ISS gliding across the night sky on 24 June 2010. Credit: WillGater.com

The International Space Station (ISS) will be making some bright flyovers over the UK over the next week or so, providing the perfect entertainment for any of you waiting for a noctilucent cloud display to materialize. The ISS appears as a very bright point of light moving across the sky against the background stars. It’s an undeniably impressive sight, especially when it’s at its brightest sailing over silently.

The reason we see it shining is because the station’s solar panels and other components reflect the light from the Sun (which is usually below our horizon when we see it) down to us on the ground. The station is over 100 metres long, with 16 huge solar arrays for generating power (seen in the NASA image below), so you can see why it’s so bright in our night skies.

The ISS as seen by the departing Space Shuttle Atlantis in May this year. Credit: NASA

To find out when and where to look for the ISS flying over, plug your location details into the excellent Heavens Above website. It’ll then list when the space station will be visible to you, as well as give you the times and dates of other interesting satellite phenomena, that can be seen from your location, such as Iridium flares.

Much of the UK is forecast to have some sunny warm weather over the weekend. Hopefully the skies will be clear for astronomical observing of all kinds.

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