Note – this article was written in 2014, if you want the 2015 flypast, click here.
Last year, the International Space Station flew over London on Christmas Eve, offering opportunities for parents to point at the bright fast moving “star” and tell bright eyed children that it was Santa heading out to deliver presents.
More scientifically, while the space station is visible from London on xmas eve, it’s mostly flying over France, and while visible, it’s not that easy to see from the south-east of England.
However, the space station will be visible, and very noticeable as it flies right over London on the following dates:
- Friday 19th Dec — 4:48pm
- Saturday 20th Dec — 5:34pm
- Sunday 21st Dec — 4:43pm
- Monday 22nd Dec — 3:52pm
- Tuesday 23rd Dec — 4:38pm
…and finally on Xmas Day itself, not actually over London, but quite close, so still very bright, maybe Santa is on his way home at 4:33pm.
To see the space station
Head outside about 10 minutes before the flypast, and find somewhere modestly dark — a local park, or somewhere above the street lights, such as a balcony etc.
Face directly to the west and look about 30 degrees above the horizon and get used to the darkness.
About 2 minutes before the flypast overhead, you might start to see a bright fast moving star heading towards you and flying right over your head. It’s sufficiently different from local airport traffic that once you spot it, it becomes very noticeable.
Maybe you will want to give a wave to the astronauts as they fly overhead. Or maybe it was Santa in his sleigh.