I love skywatching; camping deep in the desert where there is little or no light pollution often provides an inky black backdrop for myriad stars and a few planets. It will come as no surprise that the brightest object in our night sky is the moon, but did you know that the second brightest is the International Space Station? The first component of the supercomplex was launched on 16th November 1998 and since then it has grown to be as large as an American football field so no wonder you can see it clearly when it flies over!
You would be very lucky to see it just by chance but there are a couple of ways you can get a heads up in advance.
- Subscribe to NASA’s Spot The Station and you will receive an email about 12 hours before it flies over. OR
- Subscribe to Heavens-Above.com. I have used this brilliant website for many years and it has the advantage in that it will give you planned sightings for weeks, even months in advance. They also have a very good smartphone app, but my preference is for the desktop version as I like to see the info on a map like the one below. Heavens-Above also gives sighting times for many other satellites and also Iridium flares.
Another great website for all things celestial is www.spaceweather.com which is filled with info to help you see aurora (not much chance at 24 degrees north though), meteor showers, noctilucent clouds and much much more.
The next time the ISS is over the UAE in the evening, and is very bright (magnitude -2 or less/more) is on 17th August at 2010hrs. Will you be looking skyward then too?