If you can drag yourself out of bed early on Christmas Day, there’s a chance to see Father Christmas heading home after delivering his presents — or more accurately, the International Space Station flying over London.

They look the same, and depending on the age of your kids, choose which of the two explanations you will prefer to use.

To spot the space station/Santa flying over London, what you want to do is find a nice place with a decent view of the sky — a park or anywhere above the local street lighting level will do.

Try to get used to the dark sky and avoid looking at other bright lights.

Look to the west, and then around 7:22am, you may spot a single bright star appearing in the sky, and moving fast towards you. It might take some effort to spot it, but once you have, the bright star you’re looking for becomes very obvious in the sky as it races over London.

In the centre – a solitary bright star flying over London – Christmas Day 2020

The reason that you can see the space station at this time of the morning is that the rising sun is still low enough to leave the sky in near darkness, but the space station is high enough to be already reflecting the sunlight — making it glow like a solitary bright star in the sky.

The flypast lasts a couple of minutes, and then you can head home for a well-earned mug of hot chocolate.

Flypast data from N2YO.

Note — the ISS will be visible from MOST of England on the flypasts, and the flypast lasts a couple of minutes, so the times are as above, give or take 10-20 seconds. As the space station is so high up, it’ll be pretty much directly overhead for anyone in the southeast, but if you are north of London, you may need to look a tiny bit to the south of the sky above.


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One comment
  1. David Brookes-Howells says:

    This happened on Christmas Eve a few years ago, which was brilliant. Luckily, there were clear skies on that occasion.

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