Bright ISS passes over Middle Tennessee
February 29 through March 3, 2012

Look up at just the right time here in Middle Tennessee to see the International Space Station (ISS) passing overhead! Over the next few days we will be treated to several good evening passes of the ISS.

The days between February 29 through March 3, 2012 will provide good opportunities for people in Middle Tennessee to see the ISS pass overhead in the evening sky. February 29th and March 3 will be the highest and brightest passes. All you need is a clear view of the sky in the right direction.

ISS Passes over Middle Tennesee
(times approximate, based on location in Nashville)
DateRise timeRising DirectionMaximum
Magnitude
February 297:05pmNW-3.6
March 1 6:07pmNW-2.8
March 2 6:46pmWNW-2.0
March 3 5:49pmNW-3.5
Visit Spaceweather.com or heavens-above.com for exact times based on your location

The ISS orbits high enough so that sunlight reflects off its white exterior and huge solar arrays, making it appear to us like a very bright star-like object traveling across the sky in less than five minutes. The ISS can appear extraordinarily bright - brighter than the brightest stars and even brighter than the planets. ISS will look much like an airplane except it will follow a curved path across the sky and will not be blinking.

Your exact location on Earth affects the exact time and height of the ISS or other satellites you might be hoping to see. Fortunately, there are two excellent websites for tracking and observing satellites.

Visit spaceweather.com/flybys/, enter your zip code, and the site will calculate what objects will be visible from your location in the coming days. The table tells you what time and direction to look and how bright it should be. Anything brighter than magnitude -2 is well worth going out to see. (On the magnitude scale, smaller numbers are brighter.) Also watch for passes with high maximum altitudes.

The site heavens-above.com takes a little more work but generates helpful star charts, including the path of the object, so you can easily identify nearby constellations or planets. Create an account so your favorite observing locations are always easily accessible.

The ISS is not the only satellite we can see passing overhead at times. You can use these two web sites to track the Chinese space station Tiangong, Iridium satellites, the Hubble Space Telescope, and other orbiting spacecraft.

Don't forget to download a free monthly star chart to find out what else is up in the current night sky. While the position of ISS is affected by your location, the positions of the stars and planets are essentially the same for everyone in the continental U.S. That means our star charts can be used all across the country.