This year, the hundreds of thousands of people gathered to watch fireworks on Washington's National Mall will see one extra light in the sky. If clouds don't obscure it, the International Space Station will be visible for seven minutes as it passes over North America.
The station will appear on the northwest horizon at 9:35 p.m. EDT, moving higher and into the northern sky before descending toward the eastern-southeastern horizon. At 9:40 p.m. EDT, the station will be in the northeast sky with an elevation of 50 degrees, meaning it will be more than halfway up toward the zenith, the point of the sky directly overhead. Just after 9:42 p.m., the station will disappear below the eastern-southeastern horizon.
The station should be visible to anyone within about 50 miles of Washington. For someone standing in the center of the Mall, the station will appear to rise from behind the Museum of American History, pass over the Museum of Natural History and the National Gallery of Art, and disappear behind the U.S. Capitol.
During the pass, the station will be flying southeast across Canada and the United States. When it becomes visible, the station will be northwest of Lake Superior, crossing over the upper peninsula of Michigan, Lake Michigan, Wisconsin, Luke Huron, Ontario, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. As it disappears from view it will be moving out over the Atlantic Ocean.
To find a list of sighting opportunities for the International Space Station and the space shuttle, visit NASA's Sighting Opportunities page.
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