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Spot the Station Alerts to See Orbiting ISS

Nov 05, 2012 10:57 AM EST

NASA has announced a new service - "Spot the Station" - to help people spot the International Space Station (ISS), a research laboratory that is orbiting some 250 miles above Earth.

The new service was introduced Friday (Nov. 2) to mark the 12th anniversary of the crews living and working continuously aboard the space station. "Spot the Station" will send a text message and an email to those who have signed up for the service, when the space station passes over their house.

"It's really remarkable to see the space station fly overhead and to realize humans built an orbital complex that can be spotted from Earth by almost anyone looking up at just the right moment," William Gerstenmaier,  NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in a statement.

"We're accomplishing science on the space station that is helping to improve life on Earth and paving the way for future exploration of deep space," he said.

The space station is the brightest object next to the sun and the moon and can be clearly seen both at dawn and dusk. The space station looks like a fast moving point of light, similar to planet Venus, says NASA. The trajectory of the ISS passes over 90 percent of the Earth's population. Once users know where to look for the station, it will be visible without a telescope. 

NASA's Johnson Space Center calculates the station's closeness to more than 4,600 locations across the world, several times a week.

The service will send alerts to the users few hours before the space station passes over their place. The notification will be sent only if good (40 degrees or more) and long enough sighting opportunities are available.

To sign up for "Spot the Station," visit:

To look at the complete list of all possible space station sightings, click here.

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