What a lovely way to start Christmas as we can — weather permitting — watch the International Space Station flying right over London on Christmas Eve.
Of course, seeing the space station is weather dependent, and worryingly, early forecasts do not look hopeful.
But, assuming that all is well, 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.
It should become visible around about 4:23pm, depending on how much of the horizon you can see, and pass right overhead just after 4:26pm.
To see it, face directly to the West no more than a couple of minutes before it is due to arrive to get used to the dark sky — then watch out for a single bright star flying in a straight line directly towards you and overheard. That’s the space station. It takes a moment to spot it, but once you do, it becomes very noticeable.
You should be able to watch it for a minute or two as it flies over.
Technically, the space station passes just inside the M25 barrier to qualify as “over London” for my purposes — but because of its height, it will appear to be right overhead from the ground, regardless of where you are in London.
Don’t forget to give a wave to the astronauts (or Father Christmas).
Addendum — the ISS will be visible from MOST of England — and the flypast last a couple of minutes over England, so the times are as above, give or take 10-20 seconds. Obviously, if you are north of London, you will need to look very slightly to the southern half of the sky above.
It should be dark enough to see at the 4:30pm pass, but if not, or too cloudy, there is another flypast a couple of minutes past 6pm. Technically it’s over France — so you need to look to the south to see it, and it is a lot dimmer alas.