UAE astronaut's home for 6 months: How to spot International Space Station from Dubai, Abu Dhabi

The International Space Station appears like a moving star that is extremely bright — so take a closer look at those twinkling specks of light in the sky

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Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Fri 3 Mar 2023, 4:12 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Mar 2023, 9:03 AM

Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, together with the rest of his Crew-6 mates, is now at the International Space Station (ISS). This orbiting laboratory — which will be their home for the next six months — may be 400km away from Earth but it can easily be seen in the sky.

In fact, many people must have already seen it up there but they didn't know it was the ISS, said Mohammad Shawkat Odeh, director of the International Astronomic Centre (IAC).

“The ISS completes one orbit every 91 minutes, so I would say at least 90 per cent of the Earth’s population has seen it. Only that some people don’t recognise that they have seen it," Mohammad told Khaleej Times.

The space station is an artificial satellite that is in a low-Earth orbit. Run jointly by the space agencies of US, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada, it serves as a research lab and is the largest artificial object in the solar system.

“It is extremely bright and appears as a moving star in the sky,” said Mohammad. “Usually, it can be seen every day during dawn or dusk time. It cannot be seen at midnight because it needs the reflection of the sunlight. If you want to see ISS, look for it for up to two to three hours after sunset."

"Similarly, it will be visible between three hours and half an hour before sunrise.”

Here's how the ISS looks from the UAE:

Despite the satellite passing over Earth every day, it will not be visible over the next few days in the UAE. “The earliest that people can spot the ISS next is March 9,” said Mohammed. “It is unusual for it to not be spotted for so many days, but we are in an unusual period right now.”

Take note of the date and time

Those wanting to spot the ISS in the sky can look for it on Thursday, March 9, for 4 minutes at 5.45am. “It will be visible in the western part of the sky,” he said. “It will appear as a very bright moving object.”

However, on March 11, the satellite is expected to be at its brightest. “It will be visible early in the morning at 5.44am for about 7 minutes in the west,” the expert said.

"It will appear very very bright and very magnificent in the sky. It will be one of the brightest passes of ISS ever.”

The members of Crew-6 will conduct a total of 250 research experiments during their six-month mission on the ISS. AlNeyadi will conduct at least 20 studies, apart from the tasks consigned by Nasa and doing maintenance work on the orbiting station.

The next time the ISS will be visible in the evening is on March 12. “It will be just visible for 2 minutes at 7.55pm,” said Mohammed.

According to him, the best way for people to spot the satellite is to keep watching the sky. “It will look like a very bright moving star,” he said. “Mostly it will last for 4-5 minutes and sometimes up to 10 minutes. It will appear somewhat in the middle of the sky.”


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