How to see SpaceX's Inspiration4 spacecraft in the night sky

Marco Langbroek, an amateur satellite tracker, captured this view of SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience passing above the Old Leiden Observatory in The Netherlands on September 16, 2021. This stack consists of 37 1-second exposures that are 1 second apart. (Image credit: Courtesy Marco Langbroek
SpaceX Crew Dragon is currently carrying four private astronauts around the globe. You can also see the capsule from Earth, if you are in the right spot at the right moment.

On Wednesday, September 15, Crew Dragon was launched into space carrying the Inspiration4 mission. It is currently on a three-day orbital journey. According to SpaceX, it is currently orbiting around Earth in a circular orbit of up to 367 miles (590 km) above the surface. It completes an orbit approximately every hour and a quarter.

You may spot the spacecraft in the night sky if you are looking outside at the right moment. No telescopes or binoculars required!

SpaceX's Inspiration4 private, all-civil orbital mission is live updated

SpaceX launches the Inspiration4 civil space mission

Heavens Above reports that the Crew Dragon's maximum magnitude (a measure or brightness) is about 1.6. This makes it nearly as bright as star Shaula which marks the "stinger” of the constellation Scorpius. The Dragon's brightness depends on its position in the orbit and how much sunlight is reaching the Earth-facing side.

Heavens Above offers a tracking tool for free that will allow anyone to determine when the Inspiration4 Crew Dragon spacecraft (named "Resilience") will pass overhead. Simply enter your location and the tracking tool will give you the exact timing of the next overhead passes. It also provides information about the capsule’s current magnitude, directions to where to look, and directions to get there.

N2YO.com is another useful website to track Crew Dragon. N2YO.com will use your geographic coordinates to show when Inspiration4 will be overhead passing. You can also view a live map that shows the current location of the spacecraft.

SpaceX provides a live Crew Dragon tracking tool via its website for the Inspiration4 mission. SpaceX image credit

SpaceX also provides a live animation of Resilience's position at www.spacex.com/launches. SpaceX's interactive globe is fun and informative, but it doesn't provide any skywatching information.

Clear skies can make Resilience visible to the naked eye, but binoculars and a telescope will give you a better view. This long-exposure photo of Inspiration4 by Marco Langbroek, The Netherlands, Sept. 16th, is a good example. Langbroek also used a telescope that night to capture a video of Resilience flying overhead.

Langbroek explained to Space.com that he was looking from the middle of Leiden. There was a lot light pollution and the spacecraft pass was very low in the sky at 25 degrees maximum elevation. Langbroek also shared this information in an email. I first saw it through binoculars. Then, I switched to the naked eye. It was quite faint due to the bright sky, but it was visible and approximately magnitude +3.

This evening, @Inspiration4x's Crew Dragon passed over the Old Leiden Observatory domes (#Leiden city center, Netherlands). Taken from the Witte Singel.Stack of 37 images of 1 second each (spaced by 1 second), Canon EOS 80D, EF 2.5/50 mm, ISO 800. pic.twitter.com/nhlYoJE7uZSeptember 16, 2021 See more

Resilience is expected to return to Earth on Saturday, September 18, and will splash down off the coast of Florida in either the Gulf of Mexico (or the Atlantic coast)

Send Hanneke Weitering an email at hweitering@space.com. Follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @Spacedotcom

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