Because the space station is more spectacular away from skyline clutter and light pollution, NASA and the National Park Service have partnered to share information with park visitors about where and when to look up.
Sightings depend on lighting, weather conditions and the station’s location as it orbits 200 miles above Earth at 17,500 mph. With the help of the Park Service, NASA recently imported the coordinates of 507 locations, including national parks and seashores, historic sites, monuments, and wild and scenic rivers. The station’s Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston uses these locations and the orbital path of the space station to predict times when people can see the station zoom across the sky.
Sighting predictions are available on NASA's SkyWatch website, via the agency's new mobile website, and NASA iPhone and iPad applications. Many park rangers who present night sky programs and park event calendars also will have the information available for park visitors.
"It's a good idea to check the sighting opportunities ahead of time," said Chad Moore, a scientist with the National Park Service night sky program. "Many remote national parks, which offer the best night sky conditions, have limited Internet or cell phone coverage."
The space station usually appears over the western horizon and disappears over the eastern horizon in a matter of minutes. The best time to observe the station is near dawn or dusk, when the viewer is in near-darkness, and the passing station continues to reflect light from the rising or setting sun.
For detailed sightings information, please click here.
For more information about the International Space Station, please click here.