The International Space Station (ISS) orbits Earth 16 times a day, which means it’s likely to pass by your neighborhood at some point.
Despite being 250 miles above our heads, the ISS is actually easy to spot, thanks to the reflection that occurs when the Sun’s rays hit its solar array. You just have to know when to look up.
NASA already has a website that will help you find out when the orbital outpost is passing overhead, and it will even notify you via email if you enter your address.
But on Thursday, the process was made a lot easier with the launch of the brand new Spot the Station app for iOS and Android.
The app provides additional capabilities and information to make the station viewing experience even more engaging. For example, you can configure it to send notifications when nearby, and an augmented reality interface makes it easy for users to find stations. You can also use it to capture and share photos of the station.
The date at the top of the app’s display shows when the ISS will next be visible from your area. Select the date and you will be taken to the upcoming view page, which lists all upcoming dates and times, showing when the station is headed your way. You’ll find that most viewing opportunities come in the evening or early morning. If you don’t want to receive notifications in the early morning (these views will occur around 5 a.m.), you can block them via a setting on the Upcoming Views page.
Back on the main page, you’ll see a 3D representation of the Earth showing the station’s current location, as well as a line showing where it has been and where it is going. A 2D map below provides the same information but also shows day and night zones.
“Even after 23 years of continuous human presence on the International Space Station, seeing the station is still incredibly exciting when you look at the right time,” ISS Director Robin Gatens said in a message announcing the new app. ” “The orbiting laboratory that continues to provide so many unique, tangible benefits to humanity is really not that far out of reach.”