On Sunday night, November 8th, the International Space Station will be flying overhead up the east coast of the United States. If the skies are clear, it will be visible in the night skies. Because the sunlight reflecting off the International Space Station is so bright, it should be visible even in areas where city lights normally interfere with star gazing, according to a report by Baltimore Sun reporter, Frank Roylance. The timing of the fly by will vary depending upon the specific location of the observer. In Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun reports that the ISS will appear at 6:14 p.m. In locations south of that, it should be a bit earlier and for locations to the north, a few minutes later. The ISS will only be visible for a few minutes as it speeds across the sky to disappear into the Earth’s shadow.
The ISS will appear first in the Southwest part of the sky and traverse toward the north east. It will not quite get directly overhead before it is blocked form the sun’s rays by the bulk of the Earth. The International Space Station will appear as a very bright star that moves rapidly across the sky. It is only reflected sunlight that is visible, not lights on the ISS itself, so if you see blinking lights or red or blue colored lights then you are most likely looking at a terrestrial aircraft and not the International Space Station passing overhead.
The video to the left of this page offers a closer look at the International Space Station. The video was taken from aboard one of the NASA space shuttles after it undocked with the ISS and circled it. The large solar panels that provide power for the International Space Station can be clearly seen arrayed around either end of the ISS. The photovoltaic solar panels convert sunlight directly to electricity and are oriented to face the sun at all times when the Earth is not between the ISS and the sun.
At the present time, NASA reports the International Space Station is manned by the crew of Expedition 21: European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne (the Expedition 21 commander), NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk. On November 12th, the space shuttle Atlantis will launch on its final mission, docking with the ISS on November 14th and departing on the 21st.