Spot the Station – Find the ISS in the sky using the website or app

The International Space Station (ISS), which orbits the Earth, can be seen in the sky from down here. But where and when is this possible? This is what NASA’s “Spot the Station” service tells you, among other things. You can take advantage of this via the corresponding website and via the app for iOS and Android devices. So you can use the currently longer night time to find and observe the man-made satellite of the earth.

Spot the Station website with location search and maps

On the website https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ you can use a map or its search function to choose from around 6.700 predefined observation points. In the village you probably have to choose the next larger town nearby. All pins on the map apply to a radius of 80 km.

If you click on such a pin, the link “View sighting opportunities” will be displayed; Click on this and the next options for observing the ISS are displayed - including duration of visibility, altitude in degrees, rising and setting points.

Spot the Station app is more modern and simple

Admittedly, the web service shown above seems pretty old-fashioned and complicated. After all, you have to be able to do something with the information about the cardinal direction and the degree heights. So you need at least a compass and a pinch of specialist knowledge. Finding and observing the ISS should be a little easier with the “Spot the Station” app for cell phones. These must have GPS and mobile data for use.

The app runs on devices with iOS 13.0 or newer and Android 7.0 or newer. According to numerous bad reviews and crash reports, the latter is rather questionable. However, I was able to try out NASA's Spot the Station app on the iPhone and had nothing to complain about (except for the translation). In it you can use any locations (not just predefined ones like on the website), use an interactive 3D and 2D map and display a countdown until the next sighting.

Spot the Station App Download

Spot the Station app offers AR help, ISS tracking and news

As you can see in the screenshots, there is not only the start view of the app, where you can choose a location for the 3D and 2D maps and view the countdown. A menu bar will appear at the bottom of the screen, leading you to further areas of the application. If you grant access to your camera, you can also use AR to find the ISS. To do this, move the iPhone in the direction shown until the viewfinder points in the direction of the space station.

The middle menu item is a tracker, which offers a very similar display to the app's default display. Here too you can set an individual location and use the 2D or 3D view. However, you can then put the whole thing in full screen mode and zoom. This means the ISS can be followed digitally even more interactively. I can well imagine that this could be the default view on the iPad for those interested in space travel and NASA. This gives you an interactive overview of the ISS search.

There is also the “Resources” section, where you can get information material and current news about the ISS, NASA and space travel. In the “Details” tab to be selected above, there is the current data from the ISS, such as the position in altitude and latitude, the height above the earth and the orbital speed in m/s. With the app you can keep an eye on everything interesting about the research station in Earth orbit. And if more information is needed – this Wikipedia page on the ISS is also very insightful.

The only major point of criticism I can think of about the app is the sometimes poor translation. Translating the “Home” tab as “Heim” or the “About” area as “Um” suggests that little care was taken when localizing the offer. Such errors will probably be fixed with an update so that the offer can also be used in German.

Note: This article was created at the beginning of November 2023. The offer shown may have changed since then.

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