Right now, there are humans living and working off the Earth on the International Space Station. They orbit our planet from 250 miles above every 90 minutes, which means the crew sees 16 sunrises and sunsets every day.
If you’re in the right place, at the right time, the space station is visible to the naked eye. It looks like a fast-moving plane, only much higher and traveling thousands of miles an hour faster. The fact that it’s the third brightest object in the sky makes it easier to spot…if you know when to look up.
That’s where we can help! Our Spot the Station site allows you to enter your location and find out when the space station will be flying overhead. You can even sign up to receive alerts that will send you email or text messages to let you know when and where to look up.
Why is the space station visible? It reflects the light of the Sun, the same reason we can see the Moon. However, unlike the Moon, the space station isn’t bright enough to see during the day.
European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake seen during his first spacewalk. Peake and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra successfully replaced a failed voltage regulator on Jan. 15, 2016. Peake is the first astronaut to wear a Union Jack patch during a spacewalk.
Geminids of the South : Earth’s annual Geminid meteor shower did not disappoint, peaking before dawn on December 14 as our fair planet plowed through dust from active asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Captured in this southern hemisphere nightscape the meteors stream away from the shower’s radiant in Gemini. To create the image, many individual frames recording meteor streaks were taken over period of 5 hours. In the final composite they were selected and registered against the starry sky above the twin 6.5 meter Magellan telescopes of Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Rigel in Orion, and Sirius shine brightly as the Milky Way stretches toward the zenith. Near Castor and Pollux the twin stars of Gemini, the meteor shower’s radiant is low, close to the horizon. The radiant effect is due to perspective as the parallel meteor tracks appear to converge in the distance. Gemini’s meteors enter Earth’s atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second. via NASA
Way back in 1978, NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler proposed that all this space junk would eventually result in a horrific chain reaction, in which one bit would collide with another bit, creating more bits to collide with, and so on until the entirety of low Earth orbit was covered in an impassable 14,000-mile-per-hour swarm of shit. At that speed, a single five-centimeter hunk of junk has the explosive power of1.8 kilograms of TNT – more than enough to completely obliterate your GPS’s ability to get you to the nearest Burger King, stat.
And the most terrifying part? This chain reaction is already happening. It started with the accidental 2009 collision of the satellites Kosmos-2251 and Iridium 33. The impact resulted in a spectacular shotgun blast of debris, and that’s only the beginning. Also in 2009, the upper stage from a Chinese rocket narrowly missed the massive eight-metric-ton sleeping behemoth known as Envisat. There’s up to a 30 percent chance of the now-useless Envisat colliding with something else during its remaining time in orbit, and the number only stays that low if we never launch another thing into space.