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Want to see the Space Station? NASA will text you.

The International Space Station (ISS) is the third brightest object in the sky, dimmer only than the sun and the moon, so it should be easy to spot. This is because it is only 240 miles away, bigger than a football field, and really shiny. But the trick is knowing where and when to look. It’s a big sky, and the orbit of the ISS has it oscillating between 51.6 degrees north and south latitudes. It’s also going so fast that it is usually visible from any one location for only about four minutes at a time.

NASA has a solution for those interested in seeing this technological marvel first-hand. They call it “Spot the Station,” an email service that tells you when you might be able to see the ISS. To sign up you give your location city, and the server will automatically send you an email when the ISS is about to be in a good viewing position for that city.

For example, you might receive one that looks like this:

“SpotTheStation! Time: Wed Apr 25 7:45 PM, Visible: 4 min, Max Height: 66 degrees, Appears: WSW, Disappears NE.”

With this NASA tells you when and where to look when it shows up, how high in your sky it will go (with 90 degrees being directly overhead), and how long it will take to get from one horizon to the other. The space agency will only let you know when the maximum height will be greater than 40 degrees, so the higher your latitude, the less often you’ll get an email. Those who live in cities in the continental United States should get an email about once or twice a week.

Of course, if you’d prefer, you can get the notices in the form of an SMS text message by giving as an email address the email-to-sms service address, which varies with each carrier. If you’re interested, sign up for yourself. http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

Posted by Greg Crowe on Nov 05, 2012 at 9:39 AM


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