The International Space Station returns to the night sky — and here's how you can see it

After a brief absence and early morning appearances, you can catch the International Space Station at night as it crosses the sky. Here are the best viewing times across Canada.

Skywatchers will also be able to spot Venus and Jupiter

The Milky Way, as well Earth's atmosphere, is seen here from the International Space Station in September 2015. Astronaut Scott Kelly took this photograph on his 135th day aboard the orbiting laboratory. (NASA)

After a brief absence and some extremely early morning appearances, the International Space Station (ISS) returns to the night sky, and you can watch as it crosses the stars.

The orbiting science platform is home to, on average, six people at a time. As it orbits roughly 400 kilometres above Earth, depending on its location, sunlight reflects off its solar panels. Here on the ground, we see it as a bright, star-like object moving across the sky.

Spotting the space station is one of those fun things you can do from anywhere, including in cities that often miss night-sky treats.

The ISS will be visible until early June. This weekend provides a great viewing opportunity.

Here's when you can see it. If you're feeling ambitious, you can try spotting it just as it rises in the west where it will be fairly close to Venus, which will be extremely low on the horizon. (If you head out earlier, you'll find Venus, the brightest object in the sky, higher in the west.)

All times, which are local, are the times at which the ISS rises above the horizon. It takes a few minutes for it to reach its highest point.

  • Vancouver: On Saturday, 11:02 p.m. from west to east, passing almost directly overhead; Sunday again at 10:09 p.m. in almost the same place, as well as 11:46 p.m.
  • Calgary and Edmonton: 10:27 p.m. on Saturday (a very bright pass) from west to east, passing almost overhead; 11:11 p.m. on Sunday, from west to east
  • Regina and Saskatoon: 10:28 p.m. on Saturday from west to east; 9:36 p.m. on Sunday and at 11:13 p.m. in moving in roughly the same direction
  • Winnipeg: 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10:37 p.m. on Sunday, both from west to east

From vantage points farther east, the ISS will cross the sky farther to the north. 

  • Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal: On Saturday at 9:20 p.m. from west to northeast and again at 10:57 p.m. from northwest to northeast; on Sunday at 10:05 p.m. in the same location and again at 11:42 p.m.
  • Halifax, Charlottetown and Fredericton: On Saturday at 10:22 p.m. right beside Venus from west to northeast, and from northwest to northeast at 11:58 p.m.; On Sunday at 9:30 p.m., again beside Venus, from west to northeast and again at 11:07 p.m. from northwest to roughly east
  • St. John's: On Saturday at 10:54 p.m. from west to east; Sunday 10:02 and 11:38 p.m. from northwest to east

After you've spotted the station, here's an added bonus: turn to the south and find Jupiter. If you have a pair of binoculars, you can even see four of its largest moons.

You can find times for other towns and cities, either using NASA's Spot the Station site or Heaven's Above (which will also give you a sky map if you click on the date). You can also use the sites to find times for other upcoming passes.


Nicole Mortillaro

Senior Reporter, Science

Nicole has an avid interest in all things science. As an amateur astronomer, Nicole can be found looking up at the night sky appreciating the marvels of our universe. She is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the author of several books.