Look up!

The International Space Station will make a number of its occasional passes right over London this week and if you know what to look for, you can watch it pass overhead.

As it is so high above us, it’ll look to be almost exactly overhead pretty much regardless of where it passes, and a few passes will be visible even though the path itself is technically not “over London”, but I have included them just in case the clouds are a problem on other days.

To see the ISS, go outside a few minutes before hand and find a location with a decent view of the sky overhead — a back garden or local park with minimal street lighting near you is ideal, or anywhere above the local street lighting level — a balcony for example.

Face to the west and get used to the darkness and start to make out the stars (and work out which moving stars are planes, or meteors).

Depending on how much of the horizon you can see, the times below are roughly when the ISS should start to become visible — and you are looking for a fairly fast flying star in the sky flying in a fast straight line running west to east almost exactly overhead.

Once you spot it — it will become very obvious to the naked eye. It should look like it is flying straight towards you.

Depending on how much of the sky you can see, it should be visible for up to 4 minutes from horizon to horizon. Tonight should be the best night, as the weather forecast suggests it’ll be the clearest night of the week.

Give it a wave — the astronauts might be looking down at the same time.


Mon 12th Aug – 9:28pm (right overhead)

Tue 13th Aug – 8:38pm (visible, slightly to the south)

Tue 13th Aug – 10:17pm (right overhead)

Wed 14th Aug – 9:25pm (Just outside the M25, but appears overhead from the ground)

Thur 15th Aug – 8:38pm (right overhead)

Fri 16th Aug – 9:24pm  (visible, slightly to the south)

Sat 17th Aug – 8:38pm (right overhead)

Mon 19th Aug – 8:37pm (visible, slightly to the south)

The ISS is visible from London as it passes over parts of the UK several times each year, but only twice a year does it pass right over London itself.


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  1. M@ says:

    It is an awesome site. And very easy to spot even through London’s light pollution. I’ll be out on the balcony tonight – thanks for the tip off.

  2. RaggyJeans says:

    Went out with two very excited young boys and had a brilliant view. We waved like mad!!
    Thanks so muchf for flagging this up. We’ll be back out looking for shooting stars later.

  3. Andrew says:

    Darn – I saw a few Perseids later in the evening, but didn’t see this until too late, and it is cloudy today 🙁

  4. Monika says:

    Just saw it flying by, at exactly 10.17! Perfect visibility with clear skies after the earlier rain. Thanks Ian!

  5. Ulrike says:

    didn’t see any meteors last night (Central London, too much light) but just saw the ISS fly over us- am quite excited!

  6. josh says:

    That was indeed quite overhead.

  7. GJ says:

    Yup. Thanks for flagging that up. Anyone interested should take a look at the heavens-above website, which has details of ISS passes and their groundtracks – if you watched it last night, you saw it as it was above southern Ireland, then passed along the south coast of Wales, along (well over) the M4 and carried on into Belgium. There are also details of iridium flares (bright flashes from satellites catching the sun), but you will need to fill in your location (eg Putney).

  8. ES says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, Ian. (Great blog, by the way.) I followed this up by googling “NASA Spot the station London 2013,” and that gave full times, highest angles, etc. It also worked for other locations, e.g., “Reading” instead of “London.” How do we find out the 2 times a year that it passes DIRECTLY overhead? Can you give us a clue?

  9. Gill Bridgwater says:

    Last Wed Night saw fastish moving bright big star, steady speed, thought it to be a Chinese lantern but saw it again Sun pm..this is over Tregynon, Mid Wales abt 11pm moving South to West….is it the space station passing over? please reply thks

  10. Darren says:

    Got an iPhone? Look for ISS spotter in the App Store.

  11. Phil says:

    I have been told that the ISS is visiable over the UK on Christmas Eve. Could you confirm. At what time would we be able to see it? It would be great to show the grandchildren & say it’s Santa delivering all the gifts.

    Many thanks.

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