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How you can spot the International Space Station | CBC News

Do you want to see the only human off-Earth outpost? Over the next day or so, you may be able to watch it silently gliding through the night sky.

The International Space Station (ISS) is the only place where you can usually find the only six people living and working in space. And if you happen to look up at the night sky at the right time and place, you can see it as it whizzes by at a mind-boggling 28,000 km/h.

Depending on where you are, you could see the bright white light of the space station as sunlight reflects off its solar panels over the next day or so.

The best place to be will be in eastern Canada, but you can still catch a glimpse in Vancouver and Winnipeg Tuesday night.

In Vancouver, you can see it pass on April 10 beginning at 8:41 p.m. local time, somewhat low on the horizon moving from northwest to south. It will be moving in the same direction on April 12, but lower on the horizon. It will look like a bright dot — you may even mistake it for a plane — moving steadily across the sky. You’ll be able to differentiate it from a plane, though, since there will be no flashing lights.

Unfortunately, for those in Alberta and Saskatchewan, you’ll have to wait until early May when it will be visible in the early morning moving from south to northeast.

If you’re in Winnipeg Tuesday night, you can also catch it, in the same part of the sky as in Vancouver: from the west to the south beginning at 9:09 p.m. local time. If you know the constellation of Orion, you can see it near its “feet” around 9:10 p.m.

Moving into the east, Toronto is in a prime spot to see a particularly bright pass tonight around 8:35 p.m. ET moving from the northwest to the southeast, right above Orion.

How brightness is measured

Astronomers measure the brightness of objects in the sky using something called magnitude. It moves in the opposite direction that you might otherwise think. The sun is magnitude –26.8. The brighter something is, the more it moves toward the positive end of the scale. For example, the moon has a magnitude of –12.5. 

In the case of the ISS, the magnitude can vary from anywhere from the negative end of the scale — around –0.5 — to +3.9, which is extremely bright, brighter than Venus (which you can see in the west after sunset, by the way).

In Toronto, you can see the space station at almost its brightest, at a magnitude of –3.5, tonight. It will cross the sky until Thursday, but somewhat fainter.

And in Halifax, you can see the ISS from Tuesday until Thursday, from northwest to southwest, low on the horizon.

If you’d like to get a better sense of where to look, you can visit heavens-above.com and enter your location, which will provide you with a map if you click on the date. You can also visit NASA’s site Spot the Station for more information.

And if you miss it this month, the ISS will return to the sky in early May, but it’ll be in the sky shortly before sunrise.

–Credit: CBC | Technology News

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