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How to Spot the International Space Station Location with New NASA Tool

International Space Station in orbit
The International Space Station orbits 248 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, and can be seen from the ground using a new interactive map called Spot the Station. (Image credit: NASA)

The International Space Station completes multiple orbits around Earth every day, and now you can track the space lab as it passes overhead. 

At an average altitude of 248 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, the space station is the third brightest object in the sky. Although this high-flying satellite can be seen from the ground, it passes by quickly, so it helps to know where to look.  

To assist in this skywatching endeavor, NASA has launched a new interactive map at its Spot the Station site. This tool allows users to enter their location and find the best places in a 50-mile radius to view the station as it passes over them, according to a statement from NASA. [Use Our Satellite & Space Station Tracker from N2YO]

"The International Space Station's trajectory passes over more than 90 percent of Earth's population. The service notifies users of passes that are high enough in the sky to be easily visible over trees, buildings and other objects on the horizon," NASA officials said in the statement. "NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston calculates the sighting information several times a week for more than 6,700 locations worldwide." In addition to the new interactive Spot the Station map, NASA has an embeddable Spot the Station widget (which you can see here) that allows users to find out when the station will pass overhead their location. The widget was released earlier this year, NASA officials said.

The first component of the space station was flown into space in 1998. Since then, the orbiting lab has been pieced together to create the complex structure that is now approximately the size of a U.S. football field. The launch of Spot the Station falls on the 16-year anniversary of humans living and working continuously aboard the station. 

The Spot the Station tool also allows users to sign up to receive an email or text message notifying them the station will soon be visible in their selected area. 

NASA officials said the space station is most visible in the sky at dawn and dusk. It will likely appear as a bright light moving quickly across the sky, as the space station flies at approximately 18,000 mph (28, 968 km/h). 

Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to clarify that the International Space Station appears as a bright light moving across the sky, not a streak; images that feature streaks are usually long exposures that show the station moving over time.

Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Samantha Mathewson joined as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.