Skywatchers in Florida have two chances to spot the International Space Station fly high overhead in the next week.
On Sunday and Tuesday, the space station should be clearly visible (weather permitting) to observers in central Florida, but you?ll have to get up before sunrise to spot it in the predawn sky.
From Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, the space station should appear as a fast-moving bright object moving across the dark sky, but only if the weather is clear. The pass begins at 6:33 a.m. EST in the southwest, with the station flying overhead to disappear on the northeast horizon. The entire pass should take about five minutes.
On Tuesday, Dec. 8, space station hunters will have to begin their search even earlier to catch the bright orbiting lab fly overhead at 5:46 a.m. EST. The three-minute pass will begin in the west-southwest, with the station flying toward the northeast.
Several sites can tell you when the space station is visible from specific locations in Florida (for these passes) and elsewhere at all times:
The International Space Station flies 225 miles (354 km) above Earth and is the largest manmade object in space. It has four pairs of giant solar wings that branch out from a backbone-like main truss as long as a football field.
The station appears to move swiftly across the sky because it is traveling about five miles every second. It orbits the Earth once every hour and a half.
With so many communications satellites flying around Earth, seeing the station or another vehicle from Earth isn?t all that rare. They appear at night and look like steady, unblinking stars transiting across the sky.
The space station, as well as NASA?s space shuttles during missions, are larger than any other vehicles in orbit, so they appear much brighter than the average satellite.
With pristine weather conditions, the space station can reach a magnitude -5 in brightness, which is 25 times brighter than the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. At its best, the station also rivals the planet Venus in brightness.
The station is currently home to a skeleton crew of two: American astronaut Jeff Williams of NASA and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev. The two spaceflyers are awaiting the arrival of three new crewmembers - one each from Russia, Japan and the U.S. - later this month.