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Coronavirus Kent: International Space Station visible in Kent sky as lockdown means fewer aircraft

If you look up into the night sky this week you might be lucky enough to see the International Space Station passing over.

It's been visible for the last couple of days, but cloudy skies have made it difficult to see in some parts, but over the next couple of nights, people in Kent should be able to see it.

If you look out tonight, you should be able to see the International Space Station. Stock picture
If you look out tonight, you should be able to see the International Space Station. Stock picture

The ISS is the largest space station/laboratory ever built and can be seen with the naked eye at certain times as it orbits Earth at 17,500mph at an altitude of roughly 200 miles.

It serves as an orbital laboratory, factory, testing ground and home, with crew members conducting experiments in biology and astronomy.

Spotting the space station is very easy and you don’t need any special equipment - just your eyes and a camera if you want to get a picture of it.

It always passes over starting from the westerly part of the sky, but not always from the same point. It can be low on the horizon for some passes and very high for others.

It usually takes around 90 minutes to orbit Earth, so you can get two, or maybe even three or four passes in an evening or morning - both the ISS and Sun are in the ideal position to illuminate the spacecraft at this time of the year.

Clear skies tonight will make it possible to see the International Space Station passing over. Stock picture
Clear skies tonight will make it possible to see the International Space Station passing over. Stock picture

The light we see from the space station is reflected sunlight.

The reason you can't see it pass over the Earth during the middle of the day is because in the daytime the sky is just too bright. Similarly, you cannot see the space station in the middle of the night because it is in the Earth’s shadow and no light is being reflected from it.

The ISS looks like an incredibly bright, fast-moving star and sometimes looks like an aircraft - although with few planes in the sky at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic, this is the ideal opportunity to spot it.

Unlike an aircraft, the space station has no flashing lights and seems to just glide across the sky and is expected to be incredibly bright.

It will pass directly overhead tonight, Tuesday, March 31, between 8.45pm and 8.50pm.

The space station will look like fast-moving star or an aircraft as it passes over the Earth. Stock Picture
The space station will look like fast-moving star or an aircraft as it passes over the Earth. Stock Picture

If you miss it, there will be other opportunities tomorrow night, and Friday, April 3, at 9.30pm and a little earlier on Thursday, April 2, and Saturday, April 4, at 8.45pm.

Viewing times vary between one and five minutes and if you miss it in April, the next opportunity to spot it will be in May.

For all the forecasts, warnings and weather related news, click here.

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