Although NASA is no longer launching the Space Shuttle into Low Earth Orbit there continues to be a permanent presence aboard the International Space Station (ISS) of between three and six astronauts who spend their days conducting science experiments and research. As you can see by some of the pictures at the NASA ISS Mission page they also spend a lot of time looking down at the Earth and taking pictures which the generously share.
Well have you had a chance to see what they look like as they orbit the Earth from here on the ground? Some resources that you can use to find out if the ISS is visible from your location at anytime is the Space Weather Simple Satellite Tracker where you enter your Zip Code or International location and then get a list of visible passes. Another terrific resource is my friend Jaap Meijers who created the Twisst service on Twitter. Just follow @Twisst on Twitter and make sure your location has your city, state and if necessary country in the location box. With this information Twisst will send you a Twitter message if the ISS will be making a visible pass in your area. The last one I will share is the NASA Human Space Flight Sighting Opportunities page which lets you select your country and city to find visible sighting opportunities for ISS and many other orbiting objects.
I am lucky enough to live in a location that gets regular passes by ISS and these typically happen either in the evening after sunset or in the morning prior to sunrise. The timing is critical because the Sun must be reflecting off the ISS as it goes overhead in a dark sky to be visible.
I have taken several shots of ISS passing overhead using time lapsed exposures on my Nikon D3000 and decided to put together a theme with these pictures for your Windows 7 desktop. I have also uploaded these images in a separate file for those of you who do not have Windows 7 yet and would like to use the images on your computer for backgrounds. Download links are below the thumbnails.
ISS Passes Windows 7 Theme