Watching the ISS from Sydney

issFor the last few nights we’ve been watching the International Space Station fly over Sydney. The combination of early darkness and a transit at a very reasonable hour makes it easy to do.

The ISS looks like a very bright and fast-moving star. With your bare eyes you can’t make out any details; but if you squint you get the sense of the shape of it, you can see it’s not quite spherical. It moves fast enough that the entire transit through your field of view takes only minutes.

At one level it’s just another bright light in the sky, not that different from seeing an aeroplane. But apply some imagination and it becomes something much more than that when you realise it is a spaceship with people on it living and working in space. If there is a future for space exploration, and I certainly hope there is, this is a vital step on the path. It’s a triumph of human engineering and ingenuity.

There are numerous websites and apps that track the position of the ISS. An app on a phone or tablet is generally best because you can take it outside and orient it correctly. We’ve been using the GoISSWatch app which seems to work perfectly.

The ISS will be over Sydney high in the sky around 5:40pm today.

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