Catch the Space Station This Week on TV and in the Skies Above

When the International Space Station is at its brightest, only the Sun and Moon can outshine it in the sky. Courtesy: NASA
When the International Space Station is at its brightest, only the sun and moon can outshine it in the sky. Credit: NASA

What’s it like to live and work in space? On Friday, March 14, at 8 p.m. EDT you will find out, thanks to an exciting two-hour live National Geographic TV Channel broadcast from the International Space Station (ISS) and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The National Geographic Channel, in partnership with NASA, are taking viewers from around the world on a spectacular television tour of the space station, courtesy of onboard astronauts. The astronauts will showcase how they live for months in space and conduct unique science experiments in the microgravity environment. Expect to see some jaw-dropping views of Earth below.

Coincidentally, lucky sky-watchers across most of the Northern Hemisphere, including North America and Europe, can see the manned orbiting laboratory make a series of very bright flybys in the early morning sky over the next week.

As long as you have clear or partially clear skies, the football-field-size station will appear as a bright white star, traversing the overhead sky in a matter of two to five minutes.

With more than 11 pressurized metallic modules, the ISS is the largest spacecraft ever constructed in space. This makes it highly reflective and therefore easily visible to the naked eye, even when viewed from light-polluted cities.

In fact, on some flybys, when the solar panels are oriented just right, the station’s brightness can be on par with that of the planet Venus, now shining like a beacon low in the east at dawn—the second brightest celestial object in the night sky after the moon!

On most nights over the next week or so, observers may see the ISS make two or even three flybys. Orbiting between 230 and 286 miles (370 and 460 kilometers) above the planet and traveling at 16,800 miles an hour (27,000 kilometers an hour), the station takes only 90 minutes to make one trip around the Earth, putting it in direct sunlight for many hours before observers see sunrise.

To know when and where in the sky to look for the space station, visit the flyby page of

For more sky-watching events, check out our weekly StarStruck column.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter,  Facebook, and his website.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the ISS is located 2,356 miles (3,800 kilometers) above the Earth. The ISS is much closer, between 230 and 286 miles (370 and 460 kilometers) away.

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.