Benguluru witness to star spectacle as ISS appears as speck on horizon
Bengaluru,Dec24: On Thursday, the International Space Station (ISS) appeared as a speck on the horizon.
But as the city’s skywatchers scrambled to get their telescopes, the ISS was out in a flash.In barely two minutes, the bright spot had traversed the entire night sky and disappeared.
For Bengalureans hooked to websites and mobile apps tracking the ISS, it was a lucky sighting though. They knew exactly where it was at 6.45 pm, when the station crossed into Indian territory and moved over parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
On November 2, ISS had passed a major milestone in its long innings in space: that day, it completed 16 years of humans living and working continuously aboard the station.
Launched in 1998
Although the first module of ISS was launched into space in 1998, human occupation of the space station began only two years later.
Serving as a port for international spacecraft and an orbiting laboratory, ISS is jointly operated by the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.
The space station’s orbit is at about 350 km above the Earth, travelling at an average speed of 27,724 kmph. ISS makes multiple orbits around the Earth daily.
So, how frequently does ISS pass over Karnataka or India? Frequency may be high, but the station can be visible only if the timing is perfect: Just before dawn or right after sunset.
Here’s an explanation provided by the NASA website, (spotthestation.nasa.gov): “The space station is visible because it reflects the light of the Sun – the same reason we can see the Moon.
However, unlike the Moon, the space station is not bright enough to see during the day. It can only be seen when it is dawn or dusk at your location.”
Tracking ISS 24/7 to check when exactly the space station passes over a particular location on earth may be tough. But NASA’s ‘Spot the Station’ programme lets skywatchers sign up to receive alerts about the visibility time anywhere in the world.
Using a map-based feature, skywatchers could type a location directly into a search box, zoom, pan and search the map. Blue pins populate the map, identifying the best sighting opportunities for each location within a 80-km radius around each pin.