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Mar 2, 2015
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Tracking the Space Station

The space station and shuttle (when it's in orbit) can be viewed from earth if you know when and where to look.  NASA has solved the problem of where to look by creating an orbit tracking Website -- you'll need a Java enabled browser to use the page.

Best Viewing Times:
Since the space station has little or no light of it's own, you'll only be able to see it when the station is in sunlight and folks on the ground are in darkness. The best viewing times are the hours just before or after sunrise or sunset while the station is passing overhead. A list of viewing times can be found here.

What you'll see:
Assuming the station is in sunlight, it should appear as a bright and fast moving star. The longest the station will remain in view to a ground based observer is 4 minutes. When passing directly overhead, the station zips from horizon to horizon is 240 seconds or less. For most locations, the viewing window will be 120 seconds (or less).

Where to look:
Where to find the space station depends entirely upon where you are as the station comes into viewing range. Generally speaking the station is moving from west to east in its orbit around the earth but the ground track for most of North America changes over time and the station may appear to "rise" anywhere from the northwest to southwest depending upon its orbital phase. Check NASA Real Data for more details.

Should I use a telescope?
Unless you are a very experienced user, the answer is no. The station is moving too quickly to stay in your field of view more than a few moments. Naked eye viewing is best and a pair of binoculars can be used once you've sighted the station. Over time, as construction increases the size of the station, sharp eyed observers might be able to make out the station's general shape.

How can I take pictures of the station?
Follow the advice in our article, Meteors on Film: Photography Tips and you should be able to capture the Space Station's orbital track as it passes across your field of view. You're only going to get one chance during each pass to capture the swift moving station on film, so advance perpetuation is everything.

Additional photography tips:

  1. Using the sighting data from NASA's Real Data Website and a good compass, find the location of "station rise" set your camera up facing that direction.
  2. Timing is everything. Make sure you have an accurate clock synced to NASA time and open the shutter of your camera about a minute before the station is scheduled to appear. Keep the camera's shutter open until the station leaves your camera's field of view. If all works as planned, you should have a bright line on the finished picture tracing the satellite's trajectory across the sky.  Don't fret, it may take several attempts before you get the perfect picture.
Good luck and happy viewing!

Highlights

Galactic Hot Dogs Reading Marathon
Join the Galactic Hot Dogs Reading Marathon! Read each episode as it's re-released with newly revealed facts, behind-the-scenes illustrations, and the inside scoop. Make it official by pledging on the blog to read each chapter with Cosmoe. Your students will love following the exploits of these space travelers, and you'll love the educational elements that can easily be paired to the stories.

Handwashing Awareness
Kids are especially susceptible to contracting and spreading viruses during the winter months. Prevention starts with proper handwashing. Show students how to keep germs away.

March Calendar of Events
March is full events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: National School Breakfast Week (3/2-6), World Orphan Week (3/4-11), Boston Massacre (3/5/1770), Daylight Saving Time Begins (3/8), International Women's Day (3/8), Teen Tech Week (3/8-14), Pi Day (3/14), St. Patrick's Day (3/17), Spring Begins (3/20), Make Your Own Holiday Day (3/26), and World Theatre Day (3/27). Plus, celebrate Deaf History Month (3/15-4/15), Music In Our Schools Month, Women's History Month, and Youth Art Month!

Poptropica Teaching Guides
Poptropica is one of the Internet's most popular sites for kids—and now it's available as an app for the iPad! It's not just a place to play games; each of the islands featured on the site provides a learning opportunity. Check out our teaching guides to four of Poptropica's islands: 24 Carrot Island, Time Tangled Island, Mystery Train Island, and Mythology Island.

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Women's History Month
March is Women's History Month. Talk to your students about the accomplishments women have made—as well as the adversity they have faced.

Teaching with Comics
Reach reluctant readers and English-language learners with comics! Our original teaching guide to the Galactic Hot Dogs comic series, as found on Funbrain.com, will take students on a cosmic adventure while engaging their creative minds. Plus, find even more activities for teaching with comics, featuring many other classic stores.

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