Not many know that – if you know when to look – you can actually spot the International Space Station right from home. All you have to do is go to heavens-above , register (its quick – you only have to mention your location) and click the ‘ISS” link at the homepage. It shows you a timeline of ISS passes over Earth. This is how it looks like for me –
Just note the time, and go outside with a pair of good binoculars…and voila! The magnitude in the table tells you how bright it will look…the lesser the mag, the brighter it is. The brightest stars are around minus 1 mag, so the Space station looks real bright on April 6 – indeed, it is the second brightest object in the night sky, next to the moon. The altitude tells you how high in the sky you have to look – so ten degrees is just over the horizon, and 90 is at the top of the sky. The Azimuth, of course, tells the direction.
The Station is nearing completion – so with a good pair of binos you will even be able to see the solar arrays. It wasn’t a long time ago when I first spotted the station. I got out at seven, waited …and waited. Patience was not exactly one of my virtues, so turned to leave – when it suddenly appeared. It arced across the sky like some bright, wandering star. When it finally began to disappear, I jumped and shouted, “Bye – bye! See you soon!” to the astronauts on board the station. I hoped they heard me. 🙂