Friday afternoon, December 14th, the ISS will fly high above the National Capital (DC) area, likely becoming the brightest object in the sky. The space station should be easily seen with the naked eye, even if there’s light cloud cover. ISS will appear as a bright moving point, perhaps similar in appearance to a distant airliner. Very distant, as she will come no closer than 318 miles, and will be moving 5 miles per second.
ISS will rise in the W/SW sky about 5:43 pm EST, moving up and to the right. About a minute later, she will pass about 11 degrees right of the very thin Moon at a low altitude. About two minutes later, she will be due West at an altitude of 35 degrees. A minute later, she will culminate fairly high in the northwest. Two minutes after culminating, ISS will disappear into the shadow of the Earth low in the northeastern sky.
It is not possible to give exact times of the passage, but these times should be plus/minus just a few minutes of the actual flyover. If you’re outside no later than 5:40pm and hang out for 10 minutes, you likely can’t miss it.
On a personal note, I’ve witnessed this flyover a couple of times. She looks like a bright sphere, kinda like a UFO. It is awe-inspiring to see for ourselves that we’re up there!
If you want to see the schedule for upcoming flyovers, you can enter your zip code here and get the local times to eye the sky.
Source: Internal email from NASA (not confidential)
Image from Astronomy Picture of the Day by NASA