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Florida Skywatchers Have Chances to Spot Space Station

Skywatchersin Florida have two chances to spot the International Space Station fly highoverhead in the next week.

On Sundayand Tuesday, the space station shouldbe 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.

FromOrlando, Fla., on Sunday, the space station should appear as a fast-moving brightobject moving across the dark sky, but only if the weather is clear. The pass begins at 6:33 a.m. EST in thesouthwest, with the station flying overhead to disappear on the northeast horizon. The entirepass should take about five minutes.

On Tuesday,Dec. 8, space station hunters will have to begin their search even earlier tocatch the bright orbiting lab fly overhead at 5:46 a.m. EST. The three-minutepass will begin in the west-southwest, with the station flying toward thenortheast.

Severalsites can tell you when the space station is visible from specific locations inFlorida (for these passes) and elsewhere at all times:

TheInternational Space Station flies 225 miles (354 km) above Earth and is thelargest manmade object in space. It has four pairs of giant solar wings thatbranch out from a backbone-like main truss as long as a football field.

The stationappears to move swiftly across the sky because it is traveling about five milesevery second. It orbits the Earth once every hour and a half.

With somany communications satellites flying around Earth, seeing the station oranother vehicle from Earth isn?t all that rare. They appear at night and looklike steady, unblinking stars transiting across the sky.

The spacestation, as well as NASA?s space shuttles during missions, are larger than anyother vehicles in orbit, so they appear much brighter than the averagesatellite.

Withpristine weather conditions, the space station can reach a magnitude -5 inbrightness, which is 25 times brighter than the brightest star in the nightsky, Sirius. At its best, the station also rivals the planet Venus inbrightness.

The stationis currently home to a skeleton crew of two: American astronaut Jeff Williamsof NASA and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev. The two spaceflyers are awaitingthe arrival of three new crewmembers - one each from Russia, Japan and the U.S.- later this month.

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