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LOOK: Space Station Could Be Seen From Earth Using New Interactive Map

Nov 04, 2016 06:12 AM EDT
International Space Station
Shane Kimbrough casts his vote for this year's elections aboard the International Space Station
(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

As NASA marks its 16 years of humans living and working in the International Space Station (ISS), it is also striving to connect with people back on Earth as the orbiting lab flies overhead.

To the naked eye, the ISS is more visible at dawn and dusk and appears as the third brightest object in the sky. From Earth, the space station looks like a fast-moving plane only much higher, traveling thousands of miles an hour faster.

NASA's Spot the Station tool allows people to watch the ISS pass overhead from several thousand locations around the world. Using the tool, over 300,00 people could track the opportunity to connect directly with astronauts in the space station as it circles the Earth, NASA said.

Its new interactive map feature makes it easier for people to spot the space station as it flies overhead and connect with the crew onboard. The map is easy to navigate and allows users type a location directly into the search box, zoom, pan and search the map. The map contains blue pins that help identify the best sighting opportunities for each location with a radius of 50 miles around each pin.

Earlier this year, the agency released a new widget that users could easily embed on most websites. This allows people to share the service and experience broadly with an audience hoping to catch a glimpse of the orbiting lab.

According to NASA, the trajectory of ISS passes over more than 90 percent of Earth's population. The new also tool notifies users of passes that are high enough in the sky to be easily visible over trees, buildings and other objects on the horizon. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas calculates the sighting data several times a week for more than 6,700 locations worldwide.

On Oct. 30, Expedition 49 astronauts Kate Rubins, Takuya Onishi and Anatoly Ivanishin have landed safely on Earth on board a Russian Soyuz space capsule after a 115-day science mission on the ISS. The Expedition 50-51 crew is currently prepping up for their launch on Nov. 18 for a six-month mission on the ISS.

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