Look up tonight! NASA reveals how to spot ‘Santa’ in the night sky as the International Space Station passes overhead
- The International Space Station completes an orbit of the Earth in 90 minutes
- For most of the UK, the ISS should be visible at 05:15 GMT on Christmas morning
- It will also be visible high in the sky at 06:48 GMT, travelling west south west
Keeping the magic of Santa alive is something parents around the world do for their children every Christmas, and NASA suggests looking up tonight to ‘see him fly’.
It won’t actually be the man in red, rather the International Space Station as it speeds around the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour, orbiting 250 miles above the surface.
The ISS is visible to the naked eye, so no need for binoculars or a telescope to witness it flying overhead, and to someone who believes, it could be Santa travelling the globe, delivering presents to all the good little girls and boys.
For those on the ISS, they create their own ‘space family traditions’ and could do so 16 times on December 25, as the station orbits the Earth every 90 minutes.
For most of the UK it should be visible at about 05:15 GMT on Christmas morning for about 2 minutes, travelling east to south east just above the horizon, or high in the sky an hour and a half later at 06:48 GMT, travelling west south west.
Keeping the magic of Santa alive is something parents around the world do for their children every Christmas, and NASA suggests looking up tonight to ‘see him fly’
It won’t actually be the man in red, rather the International Space Station as it speeds around the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour, orbiting 250 miles above the surface
For the best view of the ISS you’ll need to find a dark sky area, with minimal to no light pollution, according to NASA, who said it is the ‘third brightest object.’
‘Visible to the naked eye, it looks like a fast-moving plane only much higher and travelling thousands of miles an hour faster!,’ NASA said.
You’ll also be able to distinguish the ISS from a plane by the fact it doesn’t have blinking lights.
Astronauts on the station will be making video calls to their families living across the Earth, and celebrate with colleague on the station.
‘Being in space, being with friends, doing a special job. It is a special Christmas,’ the astronauts said in a NASA video.
The crew on the ISS also celebrate with a turkey dinner and presents, which were delivered by a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship on Wednesday.
The holiday haul also included science gear, such as a British experiment to see how muscles respond to stimulation while in low gravity conditions.
In total the ship contained 6,500lb of research experiments and supplies for the seven astronauts on the station. This will have included presents, as well as a full Christmas dinner, according to NASA.
For those on the ISS, they create their own ‘space family traditions’ and could do so 16 times on December 25, as the station orbits the Earth every 90 minutes
WHEN TO SEE THE ISS AROUND CHRISTMAS
New York, US: 06:27 ET for 4 min travelling north to west.
Sydney, Australia: 11:25 AEDT for 1 minute travelling south to south west.
Toronto, Canada: 06:27 ET for 4 mins travelling from north to west.
Lisbon, Portugal: 06:48 WEST for 2 min travelling north, north west.
Madrid, Spain: 07:48 CET for 4 minutes travelling north to west.
Reykjavik, Iceland: 06:15 CET for 4 min travelling south to south west.
Moscow, Russia: 06:43 MST for 5 min travelling south to south west.
‘I won’t get in front of Santa Claus and tell you what’s going to be sent up, but we are going to have some gifts for the crew,’ said NASA’s space station program manager, Joel Montalbano.
‘We’re also going to fly some special foods for Christmas dinner.
‘So you can imagine turkey, green beans, we have some fish and some seafood that’s smoked.
‘We also have everybody’s favourite, fruitcake.’
NASA isn’t the only government agency getting in on the Santa tracking task.
NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a bi-national agency run by Canada and the US, is also monitoring the path of the jolly gift giver.
For over 60 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight on Christmas Eve.
They begin the tracking at midnight on December 23, and keep users up to date with where he would be expected to be at any given moment in time, during his mission to bring toys to the children of the world.
It is a public outreach programme that operates throughout December, with data available through apps, Google, the NORAD website and over the telephone.
EXPLAINED: THE $100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION SITS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH
The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.
Crews have come mainly from the US and Russia, but the Japanese space agency JAXA and European space agency ESA have also sent astronauts.
The International Space Station has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and has been expended with multiple new modules added and upgrades to systems
Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.
ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.
The US space agency, NASA, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, with the remaining funding coming from international partners, including Europe, Russia and Japan.
So far 244 individuals from 19 countries have visited the station, and among them eight private citizens who spent up to $50 million for their visit.
There is an ongoing debate about the future of the station beyond 2025, when it is thought some of the original structure will reach ‘end of life’.
Russia, a major partner in the station, plans to launch its own orbital platform around then, with Axiom Space, a private firm, planning to send its own modules for purely commercial use to the station at the same time.
NASA, ESA, JAXA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are working together to build a space station in orbit around the moon, and Russia and China are working on a similar project, that would also include a base on the surface.
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