Have you ever seen the Space Station pass overhead? It's easy if you know when and where to look.


Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for April? The International Space Station.

Label - Construction of the International Space Station (1998-2011)
Jones: Hello and welcome! I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Label - International Space Station observed by ground-based telescope
Jones: Have you ever seen the space station pass overhead? It's easy if you know when and where to look.

Label - 15 orbits a day. The orbit is tilted 51.6 degrees to Earth's Equator.
Jones: The space station orbits Earth about 15 times per day.

Label - animation
Jones: With your unaided eyes, it looks like a bright star moving across the sky. But it doesn't blink like an airplane. To find out when a pass will be visible, check on the web for sighting opportunities.
Text - http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/

Jones: NASA's Human Spaceflight Web site has a great tool to help you find local sighting dates and times. Start by selecting your country, state and city from the drop-down menus. A list of next sightings appears as soon as you click on your city. The satellite or spacecraft name, local date and time fields are self-explanatory.

Duration is the length of time the satellites will be visible in your sky on a clear night. The maximum elevation is how high above the horizon the spacecraft will get. Ninety degrees is directly overhead.

Label - Leo. Saturn. Mars.
Jones: You might familiarize yourself with a few bright stars and planets in the sky this month and eyeball their position and elevation for practice.

Label - 30 degrees. 60 degrees.
Jones: The approach and departure degree and direction tell you which direction the spacecraft will first appear from and then the direction it will disappear from and at what elevation.

Label - Approach: 10 degrees above northwest. Maximum elevation: 66 degrees. Departure: 62 degrees above northeast.
Label - animation derived from time-exposure still
Jones: The best time for space station gazing is just before dawn or just after sunset, when the observer is in the dark, but the space station is in the sun. When the spacecraft is no longer lit by sunlight, it disappears into Earth's shadow - and from our view at the same time.

Label - animation
Jones: Space shuttle missions carry needed supplies and equipment to the space station. And it's fun to see both objects when they're both in orbit. You don't need a telescope or binoculars to see them. They move too fast for most telescopes to track anyway. On the day or two immediately before docking and after undocking, the shuttle and station will appear to be chasing each other across the night sky.

Title - One more April treat: Lyrid Meteor Shower
Label - Looking up before sunrise on April 22. Hercules. Lyra. Cygnus. Aquila.
Jones: After moonset, between 1 and 2 a.m. on the morning of April 22, you'll get to enjoy the Lyrid meteor shower.

You can expect to see about 20 swift and bright meteors per hour from a dark sky location. That's a great reason to wake up early.

Title - Learn about human spaceflight at spaceflight.nasa.gov
Jones: You can more about human spaceflight at spaceflight.nasa.gov

Title - Learn about NASA missions at www.nasa.gov
Jones: And you can learn more about NASA missions, and when the next Space Shuttle will launch at www.nasa.gov

Text - Thanks to the following for submitting images: Sadegh Ghomizadeh, Bob King, Malcolm Park, Ralf Vendebergh, Sean Walker.
Jones: That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Title - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
View all Videos