Greenville’s stargazers may be able to catch a glimpse of the International Space Station from their own backyards tonight if they look up at the right time.
If the weather cooperates, the station may be visible at 9:27 p.m. above Greenville and the surrounding areas. The station, which is the third brightest object in the sky, will move across the northwest sky and pass out of sight at 9:30 p.m., according to NASA.
“You don’t need a telescope or pair of binoculars to see the station. It’s usually visible to the naked eye,” said Thomas Riddle, assistant director of Roper Mountain Science Center. “It’s definitely brighter than an airplane.”
Amber Porter, a lecturer in Clemson University’s Department of Astronomy and Physics, said the Upstate’s stargazers may have to look a little harder than usual to see the station. “The best sightings happen when the station is high enough in the sky – about 40 degrees or more,” said Porter. The station will be flying at 11 degrees on Friday night.
The orbiting laboratory, which travels 17,000 mph, typically looks like a small bright star during a flyover. In fact, it only takes about 90 minutes for the station to make a complete trip around the Earth, according to Riddle.
The astronauts who are working and living on the station experience 16 sunrises and sunsets each day. The space station currently houses Expedition 52, which includes three NASA astronauts. The crew, set to return in September, plans to perform experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, Earth science, and more.
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) June 15, 2017
According to Porter, the space station is visible as often as once or twice a week or as rarely as once or twice a month, depending on the Earth’s rotation and on sky clarity.
NASA’s “Spot the Station” website lets people sign up for email or text-message alerts that let them know, a few hours before, when the space station will be visible from their own city, how long it should be visible, and at what point in the sky.
“This service will only notify you of ‘good’ sighting opportunities,” says NASA.
For more information, visit spotthestation.nasa.gov.