IF this awful weather breaks at any time this week and the clouds part this week we’ll have lots of opportunities to see the International Space Station (ISS) in our evening sky again. This is great timing because this week we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the start of its construction in orbit. I’ve watched it grow over those years from basically a small portacabin in space to the sprawling complex it is now - a collection of modules, laboratories, airlocks and solar panels orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes several hundred kilometres above our heads, where astronauts from many different countries live and work for months at a time.

You won’t need a telescope or even a pair of binoculars to see the space station; it will be clearly visible to the naked eye as a bright ‘star’ moving across the sky, perfectly silently, at about the same speed as an airplane. All you will have to do is go out a few minutes before the times listed below, look to the west (not sure which way is west? Just remember the direction you usually see the Sun setting in from where you live and face that way) and then just wait. After a few minutes you’ll see what looks like a star rising up from the horizon, on a path that will take it on an arc over towards the south - i.e. heading from right to left as you look at it. That “star” is actually the ISS. It will then move across the sky, heading east. How bright will it get? Well,On some passes the ISS is very high and very bright, but on others it is much fainter and barely scrapes the treetops. But it is always impressive, especially when you realise that you’re looking at a huge construction that took over two decades of international collaboration between 17 countries to complete, and as you’re watching it some of the people living, working, and sleeping on it might well be looking down at you at the same time...

Here are the dates and times for the next week:

6th: 16.46 & 18.22

7th: 17.30 & 19.05

8th: 16.38 & 18.14

9th: 17.22 & 18.58

10th: 16.30 & 18.06

11th: 17.14

12th: 17.57