The International Space Station, or ISS, has been floating around above the Earth since 1998, and this week is a particularly good time to look up and catch it as it flies over the Rockford area multiple times.

I wouldn't know anything about this if it weren't for my son, Spencer, a fan of all things involving space travel. A couple of years back, I remember him telling me that he'd been reading about the orbit taken by the ISS, and how that orbit takes it right over Rockford many times over the course of a year. According to what he was looking at, we were minutes away from being able to see it pass overhead.

His information turned out to be right on the money, and we stood out on our patio and scanned the skies for a few moments before we saw it, looking like an unblinking star moving at a fairly high rate of speed right over our house.

EarthSky.org says that ISS orbits at approximately 220 miles above the Earth and it travels at an average speed of 17,227 miles per hour. That height and rate of speed means that on many nights, we have multiple viewing opportunities in case you miss one.

NASA, knowing that people like this kind of viewing opportunity, made it easy to check when the ISS will be over Rockford (or anywhere else on Earth you may find yourself). All you have to do is visit SpotTheStation.nasa.gov for a listing of ISS sighting opportunities.

Here's when you can see the ISS over the Rockford area this week, according to SpotTheStation:

  • Today (5/24), two opportunities, 5 minutes at 10:12pm, and 2 minutes at 11:49pm
  • Tuesday: two opportunities, 5 minutes at 9:25pm, and 4 minutes at 11:02pm
  • Wednesday: two opportunities, 5 minutes at 10:14pm, and 1 minute at 11:51pm
  • Thursday: 2 opportunities, 6 minutes at 9:27pm, and 3 minutes at 11:04pm
  • Friday: 1 opportunity, 5 minutes at 10:16pm

If you visit SpotTheStation, they'll explain exactly where to look in the sky, so you don't have to waste precious time spinning yourself in circles. You can also sign up for alerts from NASA so you'll know when to head outside and look up.

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