The International Space Station

The International Space Station (NASA / April 6, 2012)

Every so often, the International Space Station's orbit around Earth lines up with Maryland and we get a series of opportunities to spot it. This is one of those weeks.

On a clear night, it's easy to spot, even in the city. Look for a swiftly moving light that looks like a bright star but outshines the other objects in the sky, and appears much more distant than an airplane.

Here is when and where to look:

  • Monday night, the station appears in the southwest at about 6:25 p.m., right next to the bright yellowish glow of Venus as the planet is setting. The ISS wil drift northeast until about 6:28 p.m. before disappearing behind the Earth's shadow, halfway across the sky.
  • Tuesday, the ISS will be slightly less bright, moving low across the southeastern sky. Look southwest, again near Venus, at 5:36 p.m. It will move low across the sky, passing near the waxing half moon at 5:39 p.m., and disappearing near the constellation Taurus in the northeastern sky about 5:41 p.m.
  • Wednesday, it appears in the northwestern sky, rising in the west about 6:23 p.m., near the bright star Lyra at 6:26 p.m. and disappearing in the "Little Dipper" in the northern sky about 6:27 p.m.
  • Thursday offers perhaps the best chance of the week, with the ISS near its brightest and a long path to view across the center of the sky. Look southwest, again near Venus, at 5:33 p.m. It disappears in the northeastern sky about 5:41 p.m.

The space station is on its 38th expedition, with NASA flight engineers Richard Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins aboard along with three Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut.

Follow Hopkins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AstroIllini. Tweet him and maybe he'll snap a picture of the view of Baltimore from the heavens for us.