WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Space station flyover adds a light to Friday night sky

Posted August 21, 2015

Flyovers are an exciting treat at college and professional football games. The bigger the aircraft and the faster it is the better. As the high school football season open across the area, all stadiums will have the biggest, fastest flyover ever: the International Space Station (ISS).

Look to the northwest horizon at 8:33 p.m. for a bright, fast moving white dot rising above the treeline. That's sunlight reflected by the station's solar arrays and exterior surfaces. By 8:36 it will be overhead before disappearing 6 minutes after it appeared. Watch closely as the station nears the horizon. It will gradually dim as the station passes into the shadow cast by the Earth.

Sign up for alerts from NASA when the station flies overhead.

The ISS is traveling at just over 17,166 miles per hour, 252 miles above the Earth. It is the largest structure ever built by humans in space. From end to end, its exterior structure could cover a football field.

The now completed International Space Station spans a football field

The station serves as a National Laboratory for the United States and is the springboard to the next steps in human space exploration, beyond low-Earth orbit including asteroids and Mars.

A crew of six are currently onboard: Commander Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko, Kjell Lindgren, Kimiya Yui and Scott Kelly. Kononenko and Kelly are 146 days into their year in space.

Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.


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  • Elizabeth Lake Aug 24, 2015
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    How did ISIS get a space station and why are we sending our astronauts to it???

  • Erika Phipps Aug 22, 2015
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    My 7yo g'son and I got to watch it just off a dark (but safe) country road last night and it was AMAZING! It stayed bright for so long, and he was impressed how far and fast and full of people it was. Thanks WRAL for letting this Gramma know about it!

  • Jim Hugs Aug 21, 2015
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    I'd rather have a jet flyover. That thing is so big it might scare the youngins.

  • Doug Hanthorn Aug 21, 2015
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    The ISS is also the fastest moving object in the sky, lol! There will also be a somewhat decent pass on Sunday night at 8:23 pm. At its highest point it will 32 degrees above the horizon and will travel from the west towards the southeast. You won't have to break your neck to view Sunday night's pass.

  • George Herbert Aug 21, 2015
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    I watch for the International Space Station a few times each year. Earlier this month we had a great view in the foothills of Virginia. I try to remember to look up viewing opportunities whenever we go to the beach as well. But even with all the light pollution around Raleigh, it's bright enough to spot.

  • Charles Boyer Aug 21, 2015
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    Thanks for the reminder, Tony.

    Folks, the ISS-NL is easy to find when it passes overhead -- it is the brightest star in the sky, brighter than even Venus.