Status Report

New Service Helps Twitter Users Spot the Space Station

By SpaceRef Editor
June 27, 2009
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New Service Helps Twitter Users Spot the Space Station

Everyone can see the International Space Station (ISS) without a telescope. Dutch science reporter Govert Schilling and journalist Jaap Meijers have built an online service to let people know when they have to look up to see the ISS pass.

It is a beautiful sight to see the International Space Station. As a very bright spot, the ISS crosses the sky in about three minutes.

People using Twitter can now receive an alert when the ISS will be passing at the location in their Twitter profile. All they have to do, is follow Twitter account @twisst:

The service has been operating in a test phase for a while now. The website accompanying the Twitter messages will be launched in the coming week, with lots of extra information such as a manual ‘Spotting the ISS’.

Unique Service

The space station is visible only for a few minutes on every pass and at differents times, which makes it important to know when and where exactly it will be visible.

That information could already be found on several websites and specialized e-mail or phone services, but a global service that alerts ordinary people to the ISS passes at their location did not yet exist. But that is now possible through Twitter.

Twisst may even be the first service on Twitter that sends out such highly personalised information. Twisst sends an alert to every follower personally, wherever in the world that person may be. More technical details on

An example of what an alert looks like on the website is here:


The international, manned space station ISS is so easy to see mainly because of its huge solar panels that reflect sunlight. Since the start in 1998 the space station has orbited the earth over 60,000 times.

A new series of exceptionally bright passes will start in Europe this week. Other continents too will see — weather permitting — many great passes, for instance on July 7 in the United States and July 10 in East Asia.

More information on the ISS and why its passes come in series at all, see

Twitter is hugely popular. According to researchers Nielsen Online, is the fastest growing website in the world, with visitor numbers last year increasing by 1,448 percent.

For more information on Twisst, ISS or the popularity of astronomy on the internet, please call Jaap Meijers or Govert Schilling:

Freelance journalist and web developer Jaap Meijers (until recently web editor for Dutch daily newspaper Trouw) conceived and develops the concept. Science reporter Govert Schilling consults on the project and wrote the FAQs on

Note to Editors: Contact information for Jaap Meijers and Govert Schilling is not for publication.

SpaceRef staff editor.