You can see the International Space Station (and also China's Tianhe) in the night sky this weekend (2023)

Vonjoe rao


You can see the International Space Station (and also China's Tianhe) in the night sky this weekend (1)

If your weather is clear this weekend, go outside and look up anytime between one and two hours after sunset. If you're lucky enough to be away from bright lights, break out a long chair or love seat and make yourself comfortable.

Once your eyes have fully adjusted to the dark, you will be able to count several hundred stars of different brightness. But you can also see other interesting places, some of course like small rockfalls and some less like e.g.China's Tianhe space stationjust a week after launch into space.

You might catch a glimpse of an alien invader; a sudden flash of light lasting no more than a second or two, possibly leaving a brief glowing trail. Ancient stargazers believed that such a sight was a star falling from its fixed position in the sky. We call thesemeteoritestoday, although the terms "shooting star" and "shooting star" are still widely used. Such objects are typically particles no larger than a grain of pebble or sand that crash into our upper atmosphere at high speeds of up to 45 miles per second (that's about 162,000 mph or 260,000 km/h); Its kinetic energy is converted to light almost instantly, creating the effect of a shooting star. Most meteors first appear at an altitude of 80 miles (130 km) and disappear about a second later, perhaps 40 miles (65 km).

(Video) ISS through my Telescope (Compilation)

Then there's another group of interlopers that have been with us since the dawn of the space age some 64 years ago: artificial satellites.

Related:How to detect the International Space Station with the NASA tool

Unlike meteorites, they are much larger: essentially man-made structures that orbit our Earth, spinning in orbits around our planet at an average speed of "only" 5 miles per second (8 km/s). That's about 18,000 mph (29,000 km/h).

Perhaps the best visual description of a satellite comes from Desmond King-Hele, a veteran British satellite observer. In the excellent book of him "Earth satellite observation(opens in a new tab)(Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1983) wrote: "A satellite looks like a star that has lost its senses and has decided to go to another part of the sky."

Satellites are visible at night because their metallic skin is illuminated by the sun. A satellite entering the Earth's shadow immediately disappears from view, following an invisible path until it reappears in full sunlight.

How many satellites are there?

Right now, there's a good chance that if you study the sky closely between 30 minutes and two hours after sunset...or between two hours and 30 minutes before sunrise, you'll see between 15 and 30 satellites. from as bright as the brightest stars (zero or 1st magnitude) to moderately faint objects around 4th magnitude. This shouldn't be too surprising given the number of objects now orbiting Earth.

The first satellite wasSputnik, launched in October 1957. Since then, there are currently about 6,000 satellites in orbit around the earth. About half of these are active payloads, but there are also around 34,000 pieces."space junk"ranging in size from 30 feet to about the size of a baseball and literally millions of smaller pieces that could still prove catastrophic if they hit another orbiting object. US Space Command (formerly known as NORAD) in Colorado Springs constantly monitors all debris in orbit.

Most of the satellites are too faint to be seen with the naked eye. But depending on who is counting, several hundred or more can be seen with the naked eye. These are the satellites that are big enough (more than 20 feet or 6 meters long) and low enough (100 to 400 miles or 160 to 640 km above Earth) to be seen best.

The biggest satellite you can see!

You can see the International Space Station (and also China's Tianhe) in the night sky this weekend (2)

By far the largest and brightest of all the man-made objects orbiting the Earth is theInternational Space Station(ISS) assembled and currently maintained by the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan, and Canada. The length of the station's solar panels is 240 feet (73 meters) wide, which is the wingspan of a Boeing 777. The station itself is 357.5 feet (108 meters) long, or just one meter less. than the full length of a US soccer field, including end zones. He weighs 925,335 pounds. (462.7 tons).

Orbiting Earth at an average altitude of 420 km (260 miles) and at a speed of 28,200 km/h (17,500 mph), it can apparently move as fast as a high-flying jet plane, sometimes taking up to six or seven minutes. the sky to cross. It can be easily confused with airplane lights. Nominally it appears white with a slight yellow tinge and nominally its visual magnitude can reach a brilliant -1.8 magnitude (competitiveSyria, The brightest star). At its brightest, it can sometimes shine as bright as -5.6, which makestwice as bright as the planet Venus!

(Video) Footage: Stunning view from China's space station

Although the ISS appears to be a very bright and moving star to the naked eye, those who could focus a telescope on it would be able to make out its T-shape as it came closer to their field of view. Some could actually track the ISS with their scopes by moving them along the projected path. Those who have had a good look describe the body of the space station as bright white, while the solar panels appear copper red.

Simply put, when the ISS is moving across the sky, it's almost impossible to miss!

many windows of opportunity

From now until the first week of June, Americans will have plenty of opportunities to see the ISS fly over their homes, largely due to seasonal circumstances. As we get closer to summersolsticeOn June 20, the night hours are getting shorter and the time that a satellite in low Earth orbit (such as the ISS) can remain illuminated by the sun can be extended throughout the night, a situation never achieved at other times of the year . Because the ISS orbits Earth every 90 minutes on average, it's possible to view it not just in a single pass, but in multiple consecutive passes.

For most venues there are two types of passes that are visible. In one case, the ISS appears first toward the southwestern part of the sky and then drifts northeastward. But at other times it will be possible to see a second type of flyby, with the ISS first appearing in the northwestern part of the sky and sweeping to the southeast.

In the most extreme cases, you can land on the ISS up to six times in a single day!

Case in point: From New York City on Saturday, May 15, it will take about 3 1/2 minutes for the ISS to glide low over the northern horizon from northwest to northeast starting at 12:42 AM. m. EDT. At 2:19 am a slightly higher pass begins, with a trajectory from north-northwest to east-northeast and a duration of almost 5 minutes. At 3:55 a much higher, brighter and longer pass begins in the northwest and ends 7 minutes later in the east-southeast. Along the way, the ISS will ascend more than two-thirds of the way from the northeast horizon to the point directly overhead.

Later in the evening, starting at 20:39, it will take the ISS five and a half minutes to track from south-southeast to east-northeast. At 10:15 p.m., a pass of more than 6 minutes will take the space station from west to northeast, coming almost halfway from north to northwest. And at 23:54 the sixth and last pass of the day, taking 4 minutes to cross the northern horizon from north-northwest to northeast.

We'll give you all the details on how to generate sighting information for your hometown in a bit, but first... here's a bonus: a second space station is now in orbit.

China Heavenly Harmony

The last "living spacecraft" was launched into orbit on April 29 at 03:23:15 UTC from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the People's Republic of China. It is the core module of The new Chinese space station Tianhe, which means "Heavenly Harmony". Current plans call for launching a cargo supply ship to dock at the station this month before launching a Shenzhou spacecraft that will carry three astronauts to the station.China National Space Administrationspend some time in Tianhe sometime in June.

China's space station is considerably smaller than the ISS. It is 54 feet (16.6 meters) long, 14 feet (4.2 m) wide, and weighs 49,800 pounds. (24.9 tons). It revolves around the earth at an average altitude of 229 miles (368 km). Like the ISS, Tianhe is large enough to be easily seen with the naked eye, although smaller is not as bright. Nominally, Tianhe is as bright as magnitude +3.2, or as bright as Megrez, the star that connects the handle to the bowl of the Big Dipper. But under optimal conditions, it can get as bright as -1.3, just slightly dimmer than Sirius.

(Video) Life Inside New China Space Station

An exceptional (and colorful) sighting

Early Friday morning (May 7), Tom Pennino, an avid skywatcher from Commack, Long Island, NY, observed Tianhe in the morning sky. In his comments, posted on the Astronomical Society of Long Island (ASLI) and the Amateur Observing Society of New York (AOSNY) internet hotlines, Tianhe made what he called a "really good step" in the estimated time indicated:

“At 4:24 o'clock this morning, Tianhe appeared below Arcturus to the west and slowly ascended. Not as bright as Arcturus when it passed, Tianhe brightened rapidly as it approached the zenith. Moved to the right through the Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair and Deneb. As it flew past Vega, it actually outshone him for a short time. One thing that stood out was that Tianhe had a "reddish/orange hue" as it moved across the sky. Watching countless flybys of the ISS, I always found it to be mostly white. So looking at Tianhe, I definitely found her completely different."

But where and when should you look?

So, what is your hometown's tourist schedule like? You can easily find out by visiting any of three popular websites:

find the station

On this page you will find information about when and where you can sight the ISS. Just enter your city and then click on the map point to get all the details. You can even sign up to receive email or text notifications when the space station flies by.

Chris mobs skies above

This page not only gives you information about sightings from the ISS, but also from Tianhe-1. You must first register and then enter your location to create a sighting schedule.

Live real-time satellite tracking

As with Heavens Above, you can get sighting information for both the ISS and Tianhe-1. As soon as you log in to this website, details based on your IP address will be provided automatically.
...or you can set a "custom" location.

Forecasts calculated a few days in advance are usually accurate within minutes. However, they can change at higher altitudes due to the slow decay of the space station's orbit and periodic recharges. Check for updates regularly.

Clear skies and happy hunting!

Joe Rao is an instructor and visiting professor at New York University.Hayden-Planetarium. write about astronomyJournal of Natural History, thepeasant almanacand other publications. Follow us on Twitter@EspaciodotcomplusFacebook

Join our space forumsto talk about the latest missions, the night sky and more! And if you have a tip, correction or comment, let us know

You can see the International Space Station (and also China's Tianhe) in the night sky this weekend (3)

joe rao


Joe Rao is a Skywatching columnist for and a veteran meteorologist and eclipse tracker who is also an instructor and guest speaker at the Hayden Planetarium in New York. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, Farmers' Almanac, and other publications. Joe is an eight-time Emmy-nominated meteorologist who has worked in the Putnam Valley area of ​​New York for more than 21 years. You can find him on Twitter and YouTube by following lunar and solar eclipses, meteor showers, and more. For more on Joe's latest project, visit him on Twitter.

(Video) Is there a night shift in the space station?
(Video) What's in the Night Sky July 2021 #WITNS | Chinese Space Station | Meteor Showers


How can you see the International Space Station in the night sky? ›

To find out when the ISS will be visible near you, enter your location at NASA's 'Spot the Station' website ( It'll tell you exactly when the ISS will be overhead and in which direction to look.

Can you see the Chinese space station at night? ›

Observing of the Chinese Space Station

The best time to observe Tiangong is when it is nighttime at your location, and the Space Station is sunlit. Often, such a viewing situation occurs in the morning before sunrise, or in the evening after sunset.

When can you see the International Space Station in the sky? ›

The ISS is only visible because it reflects sunlight (opens in new tab). It isn't bright enough to be seen in the middle of the day and the best time to view the ISS is either at dawn or dusk.

Are the Chinese part of the International Space Station? ›

China is not a partner in the ISS and its astronauts have not been able to access the station. US rules prohibit NASA, a participating agency in the ISS, from engaging in bilateral partnerships with China.

What does the international space station look like at night? ›

The ISS essentially looks like a starlike point of light that moves across the sky from west to east. However, it is not visible from every location every night. Sometimes it can be seen in the wee small hours before sunrise, sometimes as the evening sky is darkening after sunset.

How many times can you see the space station in one night? ›

The orbital period – the time it takes to complete one orbit – is about 92 minutes. Sometimes if conditions are right you can see two passes in one evening or morning.

How fast does the space station travel? ›

The space station has been continuously occupied since November 2000. An international crew of seven people live and work while traveling at a speed of five miles per second, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes.

How many space stations are there in space? ›

As of 2023, there are two fully operational space stations in low Earth orbit (LEO) – the International Space Station (ISS) and China's Tiangong Space Station (TSS).

Can you see the ISS from Texas? ›

At an altitude of 254 miles, the ISS orbits the earth about every 90 minutes and is moving at about 17,500 mph. The ISS will pass over North Texas at the following times. Passes with a max height over 40 degrees provide the best chance for a sighting because they are visible above most trees and buildings.

Why is China not allowed on space station? ›

China has been banned from the ISS since 2011. That's when Congress, citing human rights abuses and national security concerns, prohibited NASA from collaborating with China unless specifically allowed by law.

Why did NASA refuse China? ›

Chinese astronauts are currently excluded from the ISS because US law bans its space agency, Nasa, from sharing its data with China.

Why is China excluded from International Space Station? ›

Faulty part from Ukraine likely cause rocket launch failure

China built its own station after it was excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to U.S. objections over the Chinese space programs' intimate ties to the People's Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party.

Can you sleep in the International Space Station? ›

The astronauts sleep in small sleeping compartments by using sleeping bags. They strap their bodies loosely so that their bodies will not float around. In the zero-gravity world, there are no "ups" or "downs". The astronauts can sleep anywhere facing any direction.

Why is the space station so bright at night? ›

Well, because it's so high the ISS is still bathed in sunlight long after darkness has fallen down here on the ground. That sunlight reflects off its enormous solar panel “wings”, just like sunlight glints off an airplane, or a mirror. That's what makes it (and other satellites) visible to us in our night sky.

Can you sleep during ISS? ›

On the International Space Station (ISS), an astronaut sleeps in quarters roughly the size of a phone booth. They cocoon themselves in a sleeping bag tethered to a wall. There is no “up” or “down” in space.

How long is a day night pass in space? ›

The astronauts see the Sun 24 hours a day (midnight Sun effect) while Earth-bound skywatchers watch the satellite pass by every 93 minutes from dusk till dawn. Each year within a few weeks of summer solstice in either hemisphere, the space station's orbit and Earth's day–night terminator nearly align.

What is the longest time on the space station? ›

The longest stay on the International Space Station is 354 days 14 hours 56 minutes, achieved by Mark Vande Hei (USA) and Pyotr Dubrov (RUS). The pair arrived on the ISS on 9 April 2021 on Soyuz MS-18, opening the hatch to the station at 13:20 UTC.

How many hours of sleep do astronauts get on the ISS? ›

Even though astronauts are allotted about 8.5 hours for sleep every day, many of them have reported needing only about 6 hours to feel fully rested. Some specialists believe that this is because the body tires less quickly in weightlessness: the muscles don't have to work as hard as on Earth.

How much do astronauts get paid? ›

Average salaries for astronauts are around $100,000 per year or more, not to mention extra compensation for their housing and healthcare. Astronauts who work for private companies like SpaceX earn even more. In general, it's safe to say that astronauts are well-compensated for their skills and experience.

Who owns the International Space Station? ›

The ISS is not owned by one single nation and is a "co-operative programme" between Europe, the United States, Russia, Canada and Japan, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

How long is 1 minute in space? ›

186,000 miles * 60 seconds = 11,160,000 miles/minute

So light can travel 18,000,000 kilometers in one minute! Let's see how many light minutes Earth is from the Sun.

How many bedrooms are in the ISS? ›

Due to microgravity in space, astronauts have to attach their beds to surfaces to not float around the spaceship. In space, astronauts are weightless and can sleep in any position they desire. The ISS currently has seven sleeping quarters, called crew cabins, where astronauts' sleeping bags are attached to the walls.

Do space stations run out of air? ›

The space station, is equipped with everything that astronauts and cosmonauts need for life: food, water, and air. The food is delivered regularly on resupply missions. However, when it comes to water and air, the space station is completely self-sufficient.

How many humans are in space right now? ›

For this reason, women and men have been living and working in space constantly since the first Expedition mission in the year 2000. So how many people are in space right now? How many people are in space? There are currently 14 people in space right now.

Can I communicate with the ISS? ›

If someone does need to “call” the ISS, operators at mission control centres simply relay the audio through a telephone line to Houston into the very high frequency space-to-ground radio network. The phone number at NASA Johnson Space Center is +1 281-483-0123, but your chances of getting through to the ISS are slim.

Is NASA in Dallas? ›

NTX is located in the Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas) metroplex and features not only a network of high-fidelity operational air transportation data and sophisticated analysis tools, but also represents established partnerships with a wide range of FAA , air carrier, and airport operational facilities.

Can I see ISS from my house? ›

The International Space Station (ISS) has been orbiting our planet since 1998. From most locations on Earth, assuming you have clear night skies, you can see ISS for yourself. It looks like a bright star moving quickly from horizon to horizon to us on Earth.

Is China ahead of the US in space technology? ›

that China appears to be on track to surpass the U.S. as the dominant space power by 2045 or potentially earlier unless proactive measures are taken now to sustain our nation's leadership.”

Does China send people to space? ›

China's space programme has previously landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon, and it was the third country to put humans in orbit.

Is China trying to go to space? ›

China wants to launch over 200 spacecraft in 2023

China last year performed 64 orbital rocket launches and finished building its own space station, but the country is planning an even busier year for 2023.

Has China sent humans to the moon? ›

Chang'e 3, which includes a lander and rover, was launched on 1 December 2013 and successfully soft-landed on the Moon on 14 December 2013.
Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.
Program overview
OrganizationChina National Space Administration (CNSA)
PurposeRobotic Moon missions
Program history
12 more rows

Will China send astronauts to the moon? ›

The effort to develop reusable spacecraft is running parallel to Chinese officials' plans to put astronauts on the moon. They have not announced a precise timetable but have previously hinted that it would not happen later than 2030. Mr.

What is China doing on the moon? ›

Last year, China's space program put up an Earth-orbiting space station and has mounted several lunar orbiting and sample-retrieving missions. A third phase of the program, to establish an autonomous lunar research station near the Moon's south pole, is scheduled for 2025.

What is China doing in space? ›

Chinese Deep Space Network relay satellites, for deep-space communication and exploration support network. Tianwen-1, launched on 23 July 2020 with arrival at Mars on 10 February 2021. Mission includes an orbiter, a deployable and remote camera, a lander, and the Zhurong rover.

When did China abandon the space station? ›

The Permanent mission of China to the United Nations (Vienna) informed the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space that communication with Tiangong-1 had ceased functioning on 16 March 2016.

Why are they getting rid of the international space station? ›

Much of the equipment is outdated and structural problems such as cracks are beginning to emerge. The international partners that collaborate in the running of the International Space Station have decided to wind down activities before eventually deorbiting the ISS.

Does the international space station blink in the sky? ›

Unlike stars, the ISS doesn't flicker. Sightings can last as little as one minute or as long as six minutes, depending on the ISS's angle of travel relative to viewers on the ground. The brightness of the ISS comes from its massive solar panels, which reflects the light of the Sun.

How bright is the Space Station in the night sky? ›

On favorable passes, it can appear as bright as the planet Venus, at magnitude -4.5, and some 16 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

Can you see SpaceX in the night sky? ›

Those lights are Starlink satellites that have been launched into space by Elon Musk's company SpaceX since 2019. There are about 3,500 Starlink satellites currently in space, and if the sun is positioned just right, they can be seen in the night sky.

Why is the international space station so bright at night? ›

Well, because it's so high the ISS is still bathed in sunlight long after darkness has fallen down here on the ground. That sunlight reflects off its enormous solar panel “wings”, just like sunlight glints off an airplane, or a mirror. That's what makes it (and other satellites) visible to us in our night sky.

Is there anyone in the international space station right now? ›


Can the ISS be seen every night? ›

It can only be seen when it is dawn or dusk at your location. As such, it can range from one sighting opportunity a month to several a week, since it has to be both dark where you are, and the space station has to happen to be going overhead.

What is the brightest place on Earth from space? ›

From space at night, Las Vegas is the brightest city on Earth. Pyongyang, North Korea, is the darkest.

What is the white line in the sky at night? ›

WBAY viewers spotted a train of white lights crossing the night sky Thursday, April 21. What they saw were Starlink satellites, launched by Elon Musk's SpaceX to provide satellite internet service.

What are the fast moving lights in the night sky? ›

While an interesting site to see, they aren't, in fact, aliens. Instead, those strings of lights moving across the night sky are Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX. Starlink satellites, first launched in 2019, are used to provide broadband internet to customers around the globe.

How long is Starlink visible? ›

SpaceX's 55 Starlink satellites will trek across the sky from the west to the north. The best chance to view the vertically stacked satellites will be around 6:45 p.m., though they may only be visible for up to five minutes. The satellites reflect sunlight, which is what makes them visible in the night sky.


1. The ISS vs China's Tiangong: Which is better?
(Interesting Engineering)
2. Who invited China to space!?
3. How China Space Station Stays in its Orbit
(Race To Space)
4. Taikonauts conduct first spacewalk from China's space station
5. GAME OVER!!! China’s INSANE NEW Space Station!!!!!
6. China's 1st space lab completes tasks, reenters atmosphere under control
(New China TV)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Van Hayes

Last Updated: 08/28/2023

Views: 6043

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Van Hayes

Birthday: 1994-06-07

Address: 2004 Kling Rapid, New Destiny, MT 64658-2367

Phone: +512425013758

Job: National Farming Director

Hobby: Reading, Polo, Genealogy, amateur radio, Scouting, Stand-up comedy, Cryptography

Introduction: My name is Van Hayes, I am a thankful, friendly, smiling, calm, powerful, fine, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.