Twitter alert: Here comes the space station!

By January 11th, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Comments (6)

twisstDid you know that you can often see the International Space Station in the night sky? I’ve known that for a while, but I never think to look up at the right time.

Here’s a cool solution I just came across: space station alerts via Twitter.

Twisst will tweet you an advance summary of good viewing opportunities when the space station is about to start passing over your head. (The station circles the Earth once every 90 minutes.) Visit Twisst’s website for tips on how to spot the station and details on how Twisst works.

For this to be useful, of course, you have to be a Twitter user–but these days, who isn’t? Speaking of which, please follow Science for Citizens on Twitter. We’re @sci4cits.

Anybody out there seen the space station lately? Submit a comment and tell us about your ISS spotting.

6 Responses to 'Twitter alert: Here comes the space station!'

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  1. I haven’t checked for the ISS flyovers recently, but I often go to to get an idea of how bright it will be in my neck of the woods. We have a monthly board game party at my house, and if the ISS is bright and the weather is favorable, I’ll drag a bunch of people outside to “Oooo” and “Ahhhh” at it passing overhead.

    The coolest flyovers are when the Space Shuttle is either approaching or leaving the ISS; you then see two points of light, one chasing after the other. Once I saw one of the two points of light pass in front of the moon, so that was rather special.

    John T. Collier

    16 Jan 10 at 12:13 pm

  2. Thanks for letting us know about the Heavens Above website. Looks like a great resource not only for spotting the International Space Station but also for all kinds of things orbiting the Earth.

    That shuttle/space station double-whammy that you described sounds amazing.

    Don’t forget to let us know about the next game night at your place. 😉

    Michael Gold

    17 Jan 10 at 2:00 pm

  3. Another way to amaze your friends and family is to use “Heavens Above” to figure out when a nice, bright Iridium Flare will occur. They last for only about 30 seconds or so, but it’s rather cool to point to a particular patch of sky and say, in a deep, rumbling voice, “Behold!” Well, OK, maybe not cool, but definately nerdy.

    Games nights are typically on the 2nd Saturday of every month; if you are in the Chicago area, let me know.

    One last “Heaven’s Above” trick: You can use it to figure out how many cities and towns in the USA share the same name:

    1. Go to the “Heaven’s Above” home page
    2. Find “Configuratin”
    3. Click on “from database”
    4. Scroll down towards the bottom
    5. Find and click on “United States”
    6. Enter your town in the “Search String”
    7. Click “Submit”

    I used to live in Sheridan, MI and Fort Sheridan, IL. My mom used to live in Sheridan, AR. So, I have a mild obsession with towns named “Sheridan”. Turns out there are 25 in the USA.

    Finding how many towns share the same name is not citizen science, but it might be useful for a trivia game.

    John T. Collier

    17 Jan 10 at 8:35 pm

  4. One last tip. “Heaven’s Above” (and other sites) will often tell you that the ISS will appear at some number of degrees of altitude above the horizon. Most people don’t walk outside with a protractor, so an easy way to estimate altitude is to make a fist and stretch out your arm. The width of your fist at the end of your outstretched arm is about 10 degrees, so if you know that the ISS will appear at 30 degrees of altitude, measure upwards 3 fist widths.

    More tips at:

    John T. Collier

    17 Jan 10 at 8:45 pm

  5. The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.

    Yahaira Denoia

    2 Feb 10 at 7:04 am

  6. Nice article. Good to know for everyone who’s into Twitter, old or new.

    Shayne Pair

    7 May 10 at 8:19 pm

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