What’s incredibly bright and currently traveling faster than a speeding bullet 250 miles above your head? Santa’s Sleigh, of course, otherwise known as the International Space Station (ISS), which will be unmistakable as it flies across the skies this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
To see with your own eyes a 20 years-old man-made object cross your home is an inspiring sight, yet few people appreciate how easy it is to see the ISS’s huge solar panels catch the sunlight.
Why you need to plan carefully to see it
However, while it may be relatively easy to locate at a very precise time above your home this Christmas, the ISS will arrive at an inconvenient time in the early morning, before dawn on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However, if the kids are up before breakfast on Christmas Day, that’s actually a good time to show them ‘Santa’ on his way home to the North Pole …
Either way, it’s best to know in advance so you can make a plan for such a precise event, though obviously, you will also need clear skies, something you cannot plan for.
Where to See ‘Santa’s Sleigh’ on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
These are the lucky cities where ‘Santa’s Sleigh’ will appear bright and relatively easy to see (in a clear sky) on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. I could have included a lot more times for a great many places, but mostly the ISS passes low in the sky from any one location, so it’s difficult to see. I’ve therefore only included details for the brightest, longest crossings overhead some of the world’s biggest cities on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some major world cities, including London, are not listed here because the ISS will cross so low in the sky that it will be virtually impossible to find.
Note that this is only a sample, so if your city is not featured here, visit NASA’s Spot The Station and punch in your location.
Even if your home city is featured here, check Spot The Station to get the viewing coordinates (unless it’s a four-or-more minute crossing, don’t bother). If you do go outside, the skies are clear, and you cannot find the ISS, rest assured that you can probably find another, albeit dimmer satellite in the pre-dawn or post-sunset sky that can fill-in for Santa’s Sleigh. After all, there are at least a few thousand satellites up there.
- Beijing, China – 6:53 a.m. Christmas Day (6 minutes)
- Chicago, U.S. – 6:04 a.m. Christmas Eve (6 minutes) and 6:48 a.m. Christmas Day (4 minutes)
- Frankfurt, Germany – 7:39 a.m. Christmas Day (4 minutes)
- Hong Kong, China – 6:05 a.m. Christmas Eve (6 minutes)
- Los Angeles, U.S. – 5:34 a.m. Christmas Eve (6 minutes) and 6:19 a.m Christmas Day (5 minutes)
- Madrid, Spain – 7:36 a.m. Christmas Day (6 minutes)
- New York, U.S. – 6:13 a.m. Christmas Day (6 minutes)
- Paris, France – 7:38 a.m. Christmas Day (4 minutes)
- San Francisco, U.S. – 6:18 a.m. Christmas Day (6 minutes)
- Seoul, South Korea – 7:10 a.m. Christmas Eve (6 minutes) and 6:18 a.m. Christmas Day (6 minutes)
- Tokyo, Japan – 5:36 a.m. Christmas Eve (6 minutes) and 6:20 a.m. Christmas Day (5 minutes)
- Toronto, Canada – 7:05 a.m. Christmas Eve (6 minutes) and 6:13 a.m. Christmas Day (4 minutes)
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes
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