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International space station on orbit of Earth planet. ISS. Dark background. Elements of this image furnished by NASA
Photograph: Shutterstock

The International Space Station will be visible from London on Christmas Day

Get up early on Christmas morning to enjoy one of the last sightings of the year

Written by
Lauryn Berry

We’ve got a special treat for you. This year Father Christmas has arranged for the International Space Station (ISS) to be visible from London twice on Christmas Morning! And when we say morning, we mean early. So if you can’t sleep because you’re too excited to tear through your presents then this is for you.

The ISS will be visible at 5.16am for just two minutes, and again at 6.49am for six minutes. If you’re an insomniac or a morning person you may have actually seen the ISS before without knowing it. It’s the third brightest object in the sky and it can look like a shooting star or a very large and fast plane (albeit one that’s really far away). 

So how exactly do you spot the 240-foot long mass of steel hurtling through space? It’s not immediately obvious, you need to decipher some coordinates first. According to the Spot the Station website, you need to understand the height at which the station will be visible and where it will appear and disappear from sight. 

To work out where in the sky the station will be visible, you need to know that 90 degrees is directly above you and 0 degrees is on the horizon. On December 25 at 5.16am, for instance, the space station will reach a maximum height of 30 degrees, so about a third of the way up from the horizon towards the sky directly above you.

But you can’t just look up and hope to see it, you also need to know which direction to look in. On December 25 at 5.16am you’ll need to be looking east by south east to see it appear, and follow the trajectory to 10 degrees east to see it disappear. Time to crack out your smartphone’s neglected compass app. 

Eager to see the ISS but can’t wake up that early? Try again on New Year’s Eve at 6.51am, that’s the latest we can offer! 

This is what London looks like from the International Space Station.

Things to do on Christmas Day in London.

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