Spotting the International Space Station

Under the right conditions, you can see the International Space Station passing overhead, even without a telescope or binoculars.  In fact, the ISS travels so fast at 17,000 mph that magnification can make it difficult to track.

Last night we stepped outside at about 10:30pm to see if we could catch a glimpse of it, and I managed to capture a photo.  I took this, hand-held, with a Nikon D60 and the Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm lens with Vibration Reduction turned on:

International Space Station

I expected to get a featureless, round blob, but you can just start to make out the form in this image.  Maybe next time we’ll try getting some pictures with the telescope.

If you want to see the ISS, you need to look up the predicted times for visible passes in your area.  I use, but some people prefer Heavens-Above.  The station travels roughly west to east, and looks like a steady, fast-moving star.

It’s pretty cool to look up at an object in the sky without using any special equipment and realize that there are probably astronauts on board.


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