Where is the ISS?
Last Updated: 25 August 2020
The ISS (International Space Station) is currently the only manned spacecraft in orbit around the earth at an altitude of 214 miles (343 km). Its main mission is to provide an environment for scientists to conduct experiments while in microgravity. The station was originally designed to operate until 2015, but after a thorough review of the spacecraft’s condition, scientists concluded that the ISS’s life could be extended to 2024 without risking the lives of the few scientists and astronauts onboard.
The station completes one full orbit around the Earth in 90 minutes (16 times in 24 hours), which means you could potentially see the station several times within a few hours period, provided you are on the night side of the planet and know where to look.
Find the position and trajectory of the ISS in real-time
If you want to know where the ISS is right now, the map below allows you to see exactly where the ISS is currently located. The yellow line shows the ISS trajectory for the last 90 minutes (past) while the white line shows the ISS trajectory for the next 90 minutes (future). This tracker clearly displays the areas where it is daytime (white) and the areas where it is nighttime (black).
Map Source: www.esa.int By Iacopo Baroncini
Spot the ISS from your location
This nifty little widget by NASA allows you to input the city you live in. It will then calculate and display the next ISS fly over time. You can find out how long the station will be visible and its position when it appears and disappears from the sky.
The International Space Station is fairly easy to locate in the sky. It is brighter than any other satellite in the sky and can sometimes reach an apparent magnitude similar to that of planet Venus. You can also sign up to receive alerts (via email or text) on this page.
ISS Video Feeds
While waiting for the ISS to fly above your area, you can consult the different live feeds from the video cameras installed on the spacecraft.
You can also follow NASA’s YouTube channel, which sometimes broadcasts live interviews with astronauts onboard the International Space Station.
ISS Live Feed 1
ISS Video Feed 2
This external camera called the High Definition Earth-Viewing System (HDEV) was operational from April 2014 until August 2019. This feed now continually streams past broadcast.
How to Locate the ISS with your phone
Nowadays, you can easily track the ISS with your smartphone. Based on your geolocation and the orbital positioning of the station, the apps determine the best time for you to see the ISS at night. Most of these applications will send you a “push” notification to let you know that the ISS will be visible in the next few minutes. Some of these applications will also filter the good passages (a few minutes long, just above your head, and very bright) from the bad passages (short duration, lower in the horizon, and fainter). These ISS tracking applications are available on both iOS and Android.
Have you seen the ISS lately? Tell us what it was like in the comment section 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the space station visible?
NASA has created a tool that allows you to check the next flyby above your city. It is super easy to use! Check it out on this page.
How often can you see the International Space Station?
Due to the stations orbital constantly changing, it is estimated that you can expect the space station to fly above your area every 6 weeks.
How do you spot the ISS?
You can use some applications to find out when the next observation will take place. You should be able to easily spot the ISS: it will look like a bright point of light travelling across the sky.
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