International Space Station tracker: when and how to watch the ISS above the UK from where you live
It’s one of the brightest objects in the night sky
The International Space Station flies above our heads constantly, orbiting the planet every 90 minutes at a height of over 250 miles.
Of course, it’s impossible to see during the day, but at night – and with the space station’s orbit passing over Britain just so – it takes on the appearance of a bright star moving across the sky.
It can actually be startling when you first spot it; a glowing orb – without the telltale flashes of an aircraft’s wing – drifting silently through the dark, but the station passes overhead fairly frequently.
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It goes through periods when we won’t be able to see it for months, as its diagonal orbit crosses other parts of the planet, but every now and then, there comes a space of a few weeks when it flies overhead – and at night.
Times vary ever so slightly depending on your location, but we’ve used those given by NASA’s Spot the Station website for Morecambe – the closest point we could find to the geographical centre of the UK – to try to give a good average.
We’ve given the date, the time the station will become visible, and how long it will be in the sky in brackets. Here’s when to see it:
23 May – 10.26pm (6 minutes)24 May – 12.03am (5 minutes)24 May – 1.40am (1 minute)24 May – 11.13pm (6 minutes)25 May – 12.50am (2 minutes)25 May – 10.24pm (6 minutes)26 May – 12.01am (4 minutes)26 May – 11.11pm (6 minutes)27 May – 12.48am (1 minute)27 May – 10.22pm (6 minutes)27 May – 11.59pm (3 minutes)28 May – 11.09pm (5 minutes)29 May – 10.20pm (6 minutes)29 May – 11.57pm (2 minutes)30 May – 11.07pm (4 minutes)31 May – 10.17pm (5 minutes)2 June – 10.16pm (4 minutes)
For more information, and for timings more specific to where you live, visit NASA’s Spot the Station website.
How do I see it?
You should have no trouble spotting the International Space Station as it drifts overhead – we say ‘drift’, but it’s actually travelling at over 17,000 mph.
The station takes on the appearance of a bright star, and is usually much brighter than anything else in the sky.
Sometimes the station will rise over the horizon; other times it might ‘fade’ into view in the middle of the night sky as it enters into the sun’s light.
It will always appear in the west, and will travel eastwards.
And just as it appears, it may disappear in the same way, growing fainter and fainter until its completely enshrouded by the Earth’s shadow.
You’ll easily be able to spot it with the naked eye (cloud cover permitting of course), though even modestly priced binoculars may be able to pick out some of the station’s details, like its large solar panels.
So take a look up, there’s a good chance you’ll spot the International Space Station, and it can be amazing to think there are actually people living up there and conducting experiments within the space environment.
The experiments that they carry out would be almost impossible to replicate on earth.