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Frequently Asked Questions

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 isn’t bright enough to see during the day. It can only be seen when it is dawn or dusk at your location. As such, it can range from one sighting opportunity a month to several a week, since it has to be both dark where you are, and the space station has to happen to be going overhead.
It needs to be dark where you are and the space station needs to be overhead in order for you to see it. Since the space station’s orbit takes it all around the globe, it can be passing over you at times when it will not be visible- either in the middle of the day or the middle of the night. The space station must be 40 degrees or more above the horizon for it to be visible. Spot The Station will only send out notifications when you will have an opportunity to see the space station, not every time it will be overhead.
No, you can see the space station with your bare eyes, no equipment required.
The space station looks like an airplane or a very bright star moving across the sky, except it doesn’t have flashing lights or change direction. It will also be moving considerably faster than a typical airplane (airplanes generally fly at about 600 miles (965 km) per hour; the space station flies at 17,500 miles (28,000 km) per hour).

What does all this sighting information mean?

Time is when the sighting opportunity will begin in your local time zone. All sightings will occur within a few hours before or after sunrise or sunset. This is the optimum viewing period as the sun reflects off the space station and contrasts against the darker sky.

Visible is the maximum time period the space station is visible before crossing back below the horizon.

Max Height is measured in degrees (also known as elevation). It represents the height of the space station from the horizon in the night sky. The horizon is at zero degrees, and directly overhead is ninety degrees. If you hold your fist at arm’s length and place your fist resting on the horizon, the top will be about 10 degrees.

Appears is the location in the sky where the station will be visible first. This value, like maximum height, also is measured in degrees from the horizon. The letters represent compass directions -- N is north, WNW is west by northwest, and so on.

Disappears represents where in the night sky the International Space Station will leave your field of view.

Astronomical Horizon

The ISS circles the Earth every 90 minutes. It travels at about 17,500 miles (28,000 km) per hour, which gives the crew 16 sunrises and sunsets every day. In the more than 15 years that people have been living onboard, the Station has circumnavigated the Earth tens of thousands of times. You can see more facts about the ISS on the Space Station: Facts and Figures webpage .
The space station is visible because it is reflecting light from the Sun. This is the same reason that the Moon appears to shine. Even when the Moon hasn’t risen, you’ll still be able to see the space station.

If you signed up, entered your registration code and received an on-screen confirmation message then you’re signed up! Chances are the International Space Station just hasn’t passed over your location at dawn or dusk yet. Read the FAQ “Why aren’t there any sighting opportunities for my location” for more information.

If you signed up with your email address, check your spam folder to see if alert messages are going there. Add SpotTheStation@nospam.hq.nasa.gov to your list of allowed senders to prevent alerts from going to spam or junk email.

If you signed up by email make sure the email containing the code didn’t end up in your spam folder. This email will appear to come from noreply@nospam.nasa.gov.

Add the SpotTheStation@nospam.hq.nasa.gov email address to your list of allowed senders.

If it has been more than one hour and you haven’t received the requested code please try the process again and if you’re still have problems, email us at SpotTheStation@nospam.hq.nasa.gov for assistance.

If your specific city or town isn’t listed, register using the next closest one. The space station is visible for an approximate 50 mile (80 km) radius around each of the listed locations.

Alerts are generally sent about 12 hours before the International Space Station pass. This means you’ll receive the message the night before for a morning pass and the morning of for an evening pass.

If you are not receiving the alerts on time, see related FAQs for an explanation.

Spot The Station alerts are sent out 12 hours before an upcoming space station pass. Unfortunately, some email providers queue messages in an unpredictable way. Adding SpotTheStation@nospam.hq.nasa.gov to list of allowed senders or contacts list might help.

You can also obtain a two-week schedule of space station passes from the website. Please see the next FAQ for details.

Visit the Sighting Opportunities page and enter your location to find out when the space station will be passing over you during the next two weeks.

You can bookmark this page or print the schedule for easy access.

Unfortunately, no. Only one location can be registered per email address or mobile phone number. However, if you have multiple email addresses and/or both an email address and a mobile phone, you can register each of them to receive alerts for different locations.

"The email address / mobile number you entered is not valid” - Make sure you have entered a properly formatted email or SMS address. Mobile phone numbers do not require any formatting, you can simply enter as a string of digits; special characters like parenthesis and dashes are not required.

“The email address / mobile number you provided cannot be found” - You are attempting to renew or cancel alerts for an email address or mobile number that does not appear to be registered.

"It looks like you have already attempted this process but not yet completed it. Please check your email or text messages for an 8-digit code and instructions to complete the process or wait 24-hours and try again.” - You will receive this error message if you try to initiate the same request more than three times without entering your 8-digit code to complete the process. Please complete your request now or wait 24-hours and try again.

“The code you entered is not valid. Please try again.” - If you have received this message, verify the correct 8-digit code is entered and that the code is less than 24-hours old. Codes expire after 24-hours at which point a new code will be required.

"You must cancel your current alert before creating a new one or create a new alert using a different email address or mobile number.” - You can only sign up for one alert per email address or mobile number. If you want to change the alert you are receiving you have to cancel the existing alert and sign up for a new one. If you wish to have alerts sent to you for more than one location you can sign up using different email addresses or mobile numbers.

“You have already completed your sign up / renewal / cancellation” - You will receive this error message if you attempt to enter your 8-digit code more than once. No further action is required.

“You have exceeded the number of incomplete requests allowed from your IP address. Please wait 24-hours and try again.” - To prevent spam, Spot The Station limits the number of incomplete requests allowed from each IP address. Please complete your request now or wait 24-hours and try your request again

If you are receiving other error messages or continue to have trouble, please let us know.

All of the Spot The Station information is listed in the local time zone for the selected location. Spot The Station automatically adjusts for Daylight Saving Time.
In order to update your email address or phone number, you need to register using a different email address or mobile phone number. If you choose, you can cancel your original alert.
In order to change your location you need to cancel your existing alert and register again using the new location information.

Your SMS Address is an email address used to send text messages to mobile phones. The format is your 10-digit mobile number followed by the email address of your mobile carrier. For example, an AT&T SMS address would be 12345678910@text.att.net. Check with your individual carrier for their format.

Check with your mobile carrier and the service plan you have to find out if you are charged for text messages. NASA’s Spot The Station is not responsible for any charges associated with the alerts.
Your registration is good for one year. Spot The Station will email you when it is time to renew your registration so you can continue to receive alerts. This is a one-step process; all you need to do is follow the link in the renewal message.
You can stop receiving email or mobile phone alerts by canceling them here. You will be sent an email or text message, simply follow the link provided in that message to complete your request.

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