Get A Text From NASA

When the International Space Station Passes Over Your House, NASA Will Send You a Text Message

The International Space Station is, after the sun and the moon, the third brightest object in the sky. If you know where to look for it, you can easily see it — no telescope required. But: if you know where to look for it. Since the Earth spins as the ISS orbits it, the station’s position in the sky at any given moment — relative to a position on land — is hard to know for sure.

You know who always knows where the ISS is, though? NASA. Several times a week, Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston determines sighting opportunities for 4,600 terrestrial locations worldwide — places from which the space station is visible for a long distance. Now, NASA is publicizing that list … and sending it, in fact, directly to you. Spot the Station lets you sign up for email or text-message alerts that will let you know, a few hours beforehand, when the ISS will be passing over your area.

“This service will only notify you of ‘good’ sighting opportunities, NASA says — “sightings that are high enough in the sky (40 degrees or more) and last long enough to give you the best view of the orbiting laboratory.” That viewing opportunity could come as often as once or twice a week or as rarely as once or twice a month, depending on the Earth’s rotation and on sky clarity. (So “don’t worry,” NASA says, “if there are big gaps in between sightings!”)

Being, for better or for worse, pretty much the target demographic for this particular service, I just signed up for it. For Washington, D.C., Spot the Station offered location options down to the neighborhood level. And it allowed me to clarify whether I preferred to learn about morning or evening sighting opportunities. (I chose both, because why not.) We’ll see how well it works. For the moment, though, the service is a nice, thoughtful feature: a way to take work that NASA is already doing … and transform it into public wonder and goodwill.



  • So how or where do we sign up to get these text?

    • Yeah really. Nice to tell us & not give the info.

    • Do you guys know what hypertext is? Before you complain about them not telling you how or where to sign up, take a look at the article, in the second paragraph, where it says “Spot the Station”. See how that phrase is a different color than the rest of the text? That means you can click on it and it will take you to their website. And note how in that sentence they are describing the service that provides that update to you? That would be a clue, also, to point you in that direction and signal to you the fact that Spot the Station is the one offering the service to you.

      Also in reading an article about getting email/text updates about SPOTTING the SPACE STATION, the words “Spot the Station” might have been a bit of a tipoff… Just saying.

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