Kirsten Williams
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-0243)

Steve Roy

Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL

(Phone: 256/544-0034)

RELEASE: 00-114

Stargazers will be in for a rare treat July 25, when the
newest piece of the International Space Station joins its mate in
a match made in the heavens. And you can track the module’s
progress with the naked eye.

Web sites developed by both NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Center, Huntsville, AL, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston,
TX, are making it easy and exciting for enthusiasts across the
country and around the world to catch a glimpse of the Russian
Zvezda Service Module, as it closes in on the International Space
Station for a July 25 docking.

Marshall’s “Liftoff to Space Exploration” web site,, and Johnson’s Skywatch web site, let you identify
the orbiting space station — and determine, in advance, when it
will pass over your hometown.

Orbiting at more than 200 miles above the Earth, the Space
Station is quickly growing into one of the brightest permanent
fixtures in the night sky. Currently made up of the American
module “Unity” and the Russian section “Zarya,” the station
circles the planet approximately 16 times per day, traveling at
17,500 mph in an orbit.

Because it reflects sunlight, the space station often looks
like a slow-moving star as itcrosses the sky. That deceptive
appearance can fool a casual viewer, but it also makes sighting
the station easier if one knows when and where to look.

The best time to catch a glimpse of the space station is near
dawn or dusk, when the viewer is in near-darkness and the passing
station continues to reflect light from the rising or setting Sun.

NASA’s web sites provide users with optimal visibility times
for their locations. Viewed under optimal conditions, the station
has been observed to appear nearly as bright as the star Sirius.
When construction is complete, estimates suggest the 470-ton “city
in space” will be brighter than the planet Venus.

Access to both NASA web sites requires a Java-enabled
browser, such as recent versions of Netscape Navigator or
Microsoft Internet Explorer. For viewers without a Java-enabled
browser, the web sites include other methods for obtaining
sighting information. Johnson’s Skywatch site contains a text-only
list of sighting opportunities, while Marshall’s site features an
automated mailing list option. Subscribers to the list — more
than 8,000 to date — are notified by e-mail of upcoming satellite

The International Space Station is a cooperative endeavor by
the United States and 15 other nations. It is the largest
international space construction effort in history.

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