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International Space Station to make low pass on Christmas Day

Published 24/12/2015

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An image taken from footage issued by the European Space Agency shows Major Tim Peake emerging from the Soyuz space capsule hatch at the the International Space Station
Space voyager: British astronaut Tim Peake takes off this week
Astronauts on the International Space Station this week
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 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 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 Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko emergingfrom 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 left) with crew members Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko (front centre) and US astronaut Tim Kopra (right) at the the International Space Station (ISS) having emerged from the Soyuz space capsule. 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
British astronaut Tim Peake
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 the European Space Agency of the Soyuz space capsule carrying British astronaut Major Tim Peake, docked 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
Mission: Major Peake (second from right) in the space station
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

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 the space station, British astronaut Major Tim 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."

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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