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You might see more than just stars in the sky tonight

Ben Domensino, Tuesday April 20, 2021 - 15:33 EST

Looking up to the sky tonight?

Well, you might see more than just stars.

The sky can be an awesome sight on any given night. But if you time your gaze just right, you might be lucky enough to see the International Space Station (ISS) streaking by.

The ISS is a 'microgravity laboratory' that circles the Earth once every 90 minutes. It has been continuously occupied by humans since November 2000 and is powered by about an acre of solar panels.

It's these large solar panels that make the ISS visible from the Earth's surface with a naked eye.

Image: The International Space Station (ISS). Source: NASA

The space station reflects light from the sun in the same way the moon does. But unlike the Moon, the space station is too small to be seen during the day. It's also not visible during the middle of the night because of the Earth's shadow.

But if you happen to be looking up at the right part of the sky, at the right time and on the right night, you'll see the space station.

Seems unlikely right?

Don't worry, NASA has you sorted.

The kind folks at NASA have made a whole website dedicated to telling you exactly when, where and how to spot the space station from 6,700 different locations around the world. This includes 97 places in Australia.

Below are the next sighting opportunities for Australia's capital cities. Visit https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/index.cfm for more details on how to see the ISS on these nights:

  • Sydney - Tue Apr 20, 7:12 PM and Wed Apr 21, 6:24 PM
  • Melbourne - Tue Apr 20, 7:11 PM and Wed Apr 21, 6:23 PM
  • Brisbane - Wed Apr 21, 6:26 PM
  • Perth - Tue Apr 20, 6:42 PM and Thu Apr 22, 6:45 PM
  • Adelaide - Tue Apr 20, 6:39 PM and Wed Apr 21, 7:30 PM
  • Canberra - Tue Apr 20, 7:12 PM and Wed Apr 21, 6:24 PM
  • Hobart - Tue Apr 20, 7:12 PM and Wed Apr 21, 6:25 PM
  • Darwin - None before May 1, 2020

If you get everything right, and there are no clouds, the space station will look like a fast-moving aeroplane with a steady (not flashing) light. But keep in mind that it will be noticeably faster than an aeroplane. A typical plane travels at about 965 km/h, while the ISS flies along at a brisk 28,000 km/h.

If you capture a photo of the ISS, we would love to see it. You can tag @weatherzone on Instagram or share it on the Weatherzone Weather Photography Group on Facebook.

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News
9News
news.com.au

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