International Space Station: coming to a sky near you



See the International Space Station pass over your home in full glory with a pair of binoculars or a telescope

Tim Peake has made space travel history by heading to the International Space Station – the first British astronaut to ever travel there.

You can see the International Space Station pass over your home at certain times using an app or a chart.

Here’s how to find out when you can see it, and how use your telescope or binoculars to get a clearer view.

(image source: Wikipedia)

What is the International Space Station?

A giant spacecraft – around the size of a football pitch – that orbits 220 miles above the Earth.

On board, a crew of six astronauts from around the world carry out experiments for NASA about what it’s like to live in space.

If the sky is clear enough, you’ll be able to spot it from the ground. It looks like a bright white plane moving quickly across the sky. 

You can see the International Space Station with the naked eye but viewing it through binoculars or telescope will give you a much better view.

(image source: earthsky.org)

How to see the International Space Station

To find the station in the sky you need to know when it will be approaching – so you can point your binoculars or set up your telescope in the right direction.

A good way to do this is through an app like International Space Station Spotter, which uses your location and time zone to tell you when to look for the International Space Station. With it you can:

  • Get an alarm a few minutes before it’s going to pass over your home
  • Assess the weather conditions and find out if the sky is clear enough to see it
  • Spot the location of the International Space Station in the sky with the built-in compass.
  • See a radar screen with the path mapped out – so you know how long you’ll be able to see it for

Where to get the app

Google Play: 

App store: 

You can also spot the International Space Station manually with a satellite chart and a compass.

The chart tells you the direction and height the International Space Station will be travelling from – measured in degrees, from 0° at the horizon to 90° directly above your head. You can use your compass to work this out.

Tip: If you’re using a telescope it’s better to choose a time when the International Space Station will be passing over for several minutes, rather than seconds. This gives you the best chance of seeing it, as it moves quite fast.

Spot the International Space Station with our range of binoculars

Or see our range of telescopes