Viewing the International Space Station

Written by tara dooley
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Viewing the International Space Station
It is still in construction (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The International Space Station construction began in 1998 and to this day is still being built. It orbits the Earth about 190 miles up, and has a speed of around 17,200 miles per hour. As the name suggests, the building of the International Space Station is a joint operation between many different countries. The station can be seen from the United States without a telescope if you are in the right location at the right time. It moves across the sky fairly quickly and out of view within minutes.

Skill level:


    Viewing the International Space Station

  1. 1

    Look up the dates and times that the International Space Station can be seen from your location in a given week. NASA has created a webpage that will give you this information so that you do not have to do the research.

    Viewing the International Space Station
    Check online to find the best times to view it from your location (Kim Steele/Photodisc/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Look in the direction that was indicated on the NASA website and wait for the time indicated. The times given will normally be at night and at a time when the space station will still be illuminated by the sun. The station orbits west to east, but depending on your location and time of year it could start northwest or southwest. The NASA website will tell you how many degrees up it will be when it comes into view.

    Viewing the International Space Station
    Look in the direction indicated and at the correct time (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Follow the path of the International Space Station, once you spot it, until it is out of sight. It will be travelling fast and is generally only in view a few minutes at most. As the station grows bigger during construction it will be possible to make out the basic shape of the facility.

    Viewing the International Space Station
    Follow its path until out of sight (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Tips and warnings

  • A compass can help in determining the location that the space station will be coming from and since the space station will only be in view a short while it would be a good device to use to make sure that you do not miss it.
  • Do not attempt to use a telescope to see the space station. It is generally going to fast to be able to keep in view for more that a few seconds with a telescope.

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