January 20, 2021

Spot The Station

So what do you do with your evenings when you’re not going out and about?

Sometimes I go out back of my house and step a ways back so I can get a better view of the sky and some days, like last night, I get the extra treat of seeing the International Space Station (ISS) fly overhead!

Did you know you can see ISS fly over wherever you are? It’s about the size of a football field so it’s actually one of the easier objects in the sky to see.  (But by the way – you can see other satellites too and I will tell you seeing a “train” of Starlink satellites is pretty awesome too!)

I am signed up to get text updates based on my zipcode (what you register with not where you currently are) for when ISS will fly overhead. You can sign up too at https://spotthestation.nasa.gov or you can go there to put in your city or town and find out when the Space Station will fly overhead next. These texts let me know it was time to Look Up!

The previous evening cloud cover kept me from being able to see the Space Station but last night was nice and clear for a beautiful nearly 5 minute pass. I stood and watched the whole thing and marveled at what an incredible thing it is to be able to observe something we humans created, that is in space, fly overhead.

I snapped this picture – no judgment please, I am definitely not a photographer – and the bright white “dot” is the Space Station.  (Maybe one day I will learn how to get a good picture of this.)

I have to admit, I am the person who literally waves and yells “Hi!” to the crew aboard. (Pretty sure my neighbors who don’t know me might think I am a little crazy. They are sort of right – I am crazy about space!)

Spotting the Station is such a fun thing to do anywhere! Pre-Pandemic I would be sure and see if wherever I was travelling would have an ISS pass while I was there. I’ve been known to bring people who have never seen this before outside to see it at places like restaurants and events.

One of my favorite memories of this was I was in Durham area of North Carolina for Go For Launch! a few years ago. As a big baseball fan, I wanted to visit Angus Barn the steakhouse that is known from the movie “Bull Durham” where the saying is “Hit the bull, win a steak.” That night there was a United Launch Alliance rocket launch as we were all getting ready to go into the restaurant and I had my iPad out and was watching. The valets asked me what I was watching and I told them about the rocket launch. They watched with me and told me that one time they’d had someone come in for dinner and tell them that they could see space things fly overhead. I very excitedly jumped up and down (literally – not joking) and told them that indeed that night the International Space Station would fly overhead. I promised that at that time I would come back out and help them see it. Our group went into the restaurant, ordered dinner and was chatting when the time came. I signaled the waitress to chat with her and let her know we weren’t ditching out (even offered to leave my credit card) on dinner but that we needed to step outside to see the Space Station fly overhead. I asked her if she’d like to join us. She looked at me like I was crazy. Once outside the valets were excited to see us. We moved away from the front of the restaurant a bit, I looked in the direction the pass was supposed to begin and YES! There it was! I helped the valets track where it was and suddenly excitedly we were all jumping up and down like little kids on Christmas. I waved and next thing I know the others were waving too. Now new customers coming into the restaurant were looking at us wondering what was going on and after the pass finished the valets excitedly explained what we had been looking at. It’s a dinner I will never forget.

Sharing the experience of seeing the International Space Station fly overhead is one that is sure to be shared again. I suspect those kind valets have showed others the ISS flying overhead. And I hope one day to be able to go back to that restaurant and this time I will remember to bring some space swag with me for my “new friends” who have become space fans.

So let me encourage you to take the time to find out when you can Spot the Station and go take a look! There are many apps out there and other sites as well that will tell you when a variety of satellites are flying overhead.

Look Up! And we’d love to hear what it is you see.

If it’s the International Space Station – be sure and wave and say hello to the Astronauts and Cosmonauts on board. I am certain they know you are saying Hi!

Hi Kate! Hi Vic! Hi Hopper! Hi Soichi! Hi Shannon! Hi Sergeys!

— Michelle

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