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'Hello, is this planet Earth?' Tim Peake fails to phone home

Published 25/12/2015

British astronaut Major Tim Peake on board the International Space Station
British astronaut Major Tim Peake on board the International Space Station

British astronaut Major Tim Peake has apologised for dialling a wrong number and saying: "Hello, is this planet Earth?"

On board the International Space Station, Major Peake insisted that he was not playing a joke on the woman he rang by accident.

He tweeted: "I'd like to apologise to the lady I just called by mistake saying 'Hello, is this planet Earth?' - not a prank call ... just a wrong number!"

Meanwhile, flying low over the rooftops, it could easily be mistaken for Santa's sleigh.

But the bright light that could be seen crossing the sky after sunset on Christmas Day is the International Space Station, soaring 250 miles over the French-Spanish border.

From southern England, it will appear in the West at about 4.24pm and remain visible for six minutes before disappearing below the south-eastern horizon.

On board, Major Peake and the rest of the crew will be treated to a spectacular sight as their orbiting craft flies over the "Christmas lights" of European cities and towns after sunset.

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: "The space station's maximum elevation will be about 23 degrees viewed from London, which is just above the rooftops.

"It will be the brightest star in the sky, moving rapidly from west to east. You might think it's a plane to start with, but you'd hear the engine noise of an aircraft that close and of course the space station is silent.

"So we'll be able to see a different object flying over the rooftops on Christmas Day."

Tim Peake has landed back on earth
Tim Peake has landed back on earth
Undated handout photo issued by the European Space Agency of astronaut Tim Peake in Cupola, as the Soyuz capsule carrying Major Tim Peake and his two crewmates has released itself from the International Space Station and undocked. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday June 18, 2016. See PA story SCIENCE Peake. Photo credit should read: ESA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Image of the Soyuz spacecraft carrying British astronaut Tim Peake and his two crew mates
Handout image issued by the European Space Agency of Major Tim Peake in his Sokol suit 10 days ago, as the Soyuz capsule carrying Major Tim Peake and his two crewmates has released itself from the International Space Station and undocked. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday June 18, 2016. See PA story SCIENCE Peake. Photo credit should read: ESA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Image of the Soyuz spacecraft carrying British astronaut Tim Peake and his two crew mates
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout image issued by the European Space Agency of the hatch to the Soyuz capsule carrying Major Tim Peake and his two crewmates being closed before it released itself from the International Space Station and undocked. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday June 18, 2016. See PA story SCIENCE Peake. Photo credit should read: ESA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout image issued by the European Space Agency of the Soyuz capsule carrying Major Tim Peake and his two crewmates which has released itself from the International Space Station and undocked. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday June 18, 2016. See PA story SCIENCE Peake. Photo credit should read: ESA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by European Space Agency of British astronaut Major Tim Peake emerging from the Soyuz space capsule hatch at the the International Space Station (ISS).PA
Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by European Space Agency of British astronaut Major Tim Peake (second right) with crew members Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko (front centre) and US astronaut Tim Kopra (left) at the the International Space Station (ISS) having emerged from the Soyuz space capsule. PA
Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by the European Space Agency of the Soyuz space capsule carrying British astronaut Major Tim Peake, docked at the the International Space Station (ISS). PA
Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by European Space Agency of British astronaut Major Tim Peake emerging from the Soyuz space capsule hatch at the the International Space Station (ISS). PA
Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by the European Space Agency of the Soyuz space capsule carrying British astronaut Major Tim Peake, docked at the the International Space Station (ISS). PA
Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by European Space Agency of Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko emergingfrom the Soyuz space capsule hatch at the the International Space Station (ISS). PA
UK astronaut Tim Peake reacts as his space suit is tested at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, prior to blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS), on December 15, 2015. Russia's Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft carrying the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 46/47 crew of Britain's astronaut Tim Peake, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and US astronaut Tim Kopra blasted off to the ISS on December 15, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by the European Space Agency of the Soyuz space capsule carrying British astronaut Major Tim Peake, approaching docking at the the International Space Station (ISS). PA
Screen grabbed image taken from footage issued by the European Space Agency of the Soyuz space capsule carrying British astronaut Major Tim Peake, approaching docking at the the International Space Station (ISS). PA
Major Tim Peake blasting off into orbit on board the Soyuz space capsule on his way to becoming the first British astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).
Expedition 46-47 crewmembers ESA astronaut Tim Peake, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and commander Yuri Malenchenko launch into space from Baikonur cosmodrome on December 15, 2015 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz TMA-19M rocket with Expedition 46 Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA, and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) launches into space from Baikonur cosmodrome on December 15, 2015 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
Major Tim Peake (left) blasting off into orbit on board the Soyuz space capsule on his way to becoming the first British astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).
Major Tim Peake blasting off into orbit on board the Soyuz space capsule on his way to becoming the first British astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).
British astronaut Tim Peake, member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), gestures prior the launch of Soyuz TMA-19M space ship at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
Photographers take pictures as Russia's Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft carrying the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 46/47 crew of Britain's astronaut Tim Peake, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and US astronaut Tim Kopra blasts off from the launch pad at Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome on December 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEVKIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images
Russian Space Agency experts help British astronaut Tim Peake, a member of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), to stand up after inspecting his space suit prior to the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko walks to board the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, prior to blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS), on December 15, 2015.
Britain's astronaut Tim Peake smiles as he walks to board the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, prior to blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS), on December 15, 2015.
Britain's astronaut Tim Peake (bottom), Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (top) and US astronaut Tim Kopra board the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, prior to blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS), on December 15, 2015.
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko waves to his relatives from a bus after his space suit was tested at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome on December 15, 2015.
US astronaut Tim Kopra waves from a bus after his space suit was tested at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome on December 15, 2015.
Britain's astronaut Tim Peake (bottom), Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (top) and US astronaut Tim Kopra wave as they board the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, prior to blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS), on December 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / SHAMIL ZHUMATOVSHAMIL ZHUMATOV/AFP/Getty Images
The Moscow control room as Major Tim Peake blasted off into orbit on board the Soyuz space capsule on his way to becoming the first British astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).
Britain's astronaut Tim Peake waves as he walks to board a bus at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, prior to blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS), on December 15, 2015.
Britain's astronaut Tim Peake gestures to his children from a bus after his space suit was tested at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, prior to blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS), on December 15, 2015.
From L: Britain's astronaut Tim Peake, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and US astronaut Tim Kopra walk after their space suits were tested at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, prior to blasting off to the International Space Station (ISS), on December 15, 2015.
Expedition 46 Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), top, Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA, center, and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency), bottom, wave farewell prior to boarding the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket for launch on December 15, 2015 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Viewed from further north, the space station will appear lower in the sky, but should still be visible from the north of Scotland. Seen from south-west England, it will have a higher elevation of around 30 degrees.

A full moon is also due make an appearance on Christmas Day, but it is not due to rise until the International Space Station has completed its journey.

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