International Space Station cruising above Queensland coast

IF you've never seen the International Space Station with the naked eye, tonight might be your night.

NASA and weather watchers in Queensland are reporting it will make one of the best passes of the east coast.

The journey starts from Weipa on Cape York Peninsula and then covers Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gympie, the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and beyond.

According to NASA, the International Space Station looks like a fast-moving plane only much higher.

And of course, it's travelling at thousands of kilometres an hour.

We can see it because it reflects the light of the sun - the same reason we can see the moon.

But, unlike the moon, it is not possible to see it during the day.

And you obviously need the right conditions.

So if it is cloudy or you have lots of bright lights around your home, you might be out of luck.

"It has to be both dark where you are, and the space station has to happen to be going overhead,'' NASA says.

"The space station must be 40 degrees or more above the horizon for it to be visible.

NASA offers a service called Spot The Station which will send out notifications when you have a chance to see it, based on your location.

Don't expect the sighting to last too long, however.


"The space station looks like an airplane or a very bright star moving across the sky, except it doesn't have flashing lights or change direction,'' NASA says.

"It will also be moving considerably faster than a typical airplane (airplanes generally fly at about 600 miles (965 km) per  hour; the space station flies at 17,500 miles (28,000 km) per hour).

The ISS circles the Earth every 90 minutes.

The crew  experience 16 sunrises and sunsets every day.

"In the more than 15 years that people have been living onboard, the Station has circumnavigated the Earth tens of thousands of times."