Though it’s been a relatively rainy and cloudy month, tonight’s clear skies should make for an easy viewing of the International Space Station (ISS).
According to NASA, the largest artificial body in orbit will be visible to the naked eye for around four minutes when it passes over Doha this evening at 6:49pm.
The US space agency says that the station’s maximum height will be at 75 degrees, meaning that it will pass almost straight overhead.
Onboard the ISS, there is a laboratory and crew members conduct various experiments, including the effects of prolonged exposure to life in space on humans.
Some 16 countries are involved in its operation, including the US, Japan and Canada.
British astronomer @virtualastro told Doha News that the ISS passes over Qatar every six to eight weeks.
He said the best view would be outside of the city, away from all the lights. But he added that it should still be possible to see the ISS from Doha:
“It is bright enough to be seen from the city, but it’s nicer to see it away from city lights in a rural location if you can.”
In a beginner’s guide to spotting the ISS on his website, the astronomer advised that novices turn to the west – the direction the ISS will appear from – and hold their arms outstretched, making a fist:
“A good rule of thumb is that your fist outstretched at arm’s length is 10 degrees. So if the ISS will be first be seen 40 degrees above the horizon, look four fist-lengths above the horizon.”
As the ISS will first appear over Doha at 30 degrees tonight, spotters will need to look three fist lengths above the horizon to see it when it appears.
NASA’s “Spot the Station” website includes a search facility that allows you to find out when the ISS will next appear in Qatar’s skies.
If you miss it tonight, it will also appear on Saturday at 6:42pm, and very early in the morning on May 4 and 5.