As Space Junk Hits The International Space Station Here’s Why Now Is A Great Time To See It With Your Own Naked Eyes
The International Space Station (ISS) has been struck by space debris.
As reported by ScienceAlert, its Canadarm2 robotic arm has been partially punctured by a small piece of debris too small for NASA to track, though it’s still operational.
Constructed by the Canadian Space Agency, Canadarm2 is a 57.7-foot-long robotic arm that was used to assemble the ISS and is now used to grab space capsules as they arrive carrying supplies—or even astronauts.
About 250 miles/400 kilometers up in orbit of Earth, most people have no idea that it’s possible to see the International Space Station (ISS) whizzing over their heads. In fact it’s one of the easiest and most impressive things you can see in the night sky.
If you’ve never sen the ISS then now is the perfect time. Currently occupied by seven astronauts from Japan, France, Russia and the U.S. this space laboratory—in orbit since 1998—is now glinting brightly around sunset in the northern hemisphere.
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“People don’t realize that for about a week every month we get flybys of the ISS that we can actually see,” said Dani Robertson, Dark Sky Officer for Prosiect Nos, which is trying to create the largest area of protected dark skies in the world in North Wales.
As the astronauts and cosmonauts of Expedition 65 mission do science you can easily see the ISS as a constant, bright, white light that takes about five minutes to cross the sky.
NASA’s Spot The Station service will give you a schedule of when and where to look from your location, though it always crosses roughly from west to east.
“It’s one of my favorite things to point it out to people because it’s such a such a feat of humanity to have all these people of different ethnicities and backgrounds working together on science project flying around the Earth,” said Robertson.
“It almost doesn’t feel like it’s real when you try to explain it to people.”
The ISS is most often seen in the two hours or so after sunset, largely because the ISS isn’t a light source, merely reflecting sunlight.
So for it to be visible to us on Earth the Sun has to be just under the horizon—either just before sunrise or just after sunset—which allows its vast solar panels catch the sunlight.
During June and July in the northern hemisphere the Sun doesn’t get far below the horizon, so the solar panels reflect bright sunlight both more intensely, and for much longer.
It means that it’s often possible to see two or even three bright passes of the ISS per night, despite it taking 90 minutes to orbit the Earth.
It’s easy to see where the ISS is at any one time, but it’s only possible to see the ISS periodically when it passes over your location close to sunrise or sunset; typically it can be seen for about 10 days every 4-6 weeks.