The single best thing about Twitter

For me, the single best thing about Twitter is this: Twisst.

The account uses your location to give you advance warning of the International Space Station passing overhead. It only alerts you of the passes between dusk and dawn, those that are visible to the naked eye.

Before I stumbled upon the account, I used to occasionally pop along to one of the many tracker pages that showed the path of the station, to see whether it was in the vicinity of London. On one such occasion, I was lucky. Sat in Starbucks with my daughter as dusk fell, I hit the bookmarked site and discovered that it was going to pass over Croydon in around 20 minutes’ time. We finished our drinks and my shoulders carried her to the middle of Clapham Common for the 5.20pm fly-by. Beforehand, I tweeted the passing to allow friends to enjoy it too.

From around 5.15pm, wind brought an abundance of cloud into what was a relatively clear sky, and our skyward gazing was fruitless. My friend Simon thanked me for treating his family to an awesome fly-by. Mixed feelings.

(On a previous occasion, we had about five minutes’ notice and my daughter and I ran/were dragged from the Windmill pub to the middle of the Common like crazed fools, and were treated to a fabulous sight.)

But the chances that it would be passing over at or around the time you checked were remote.

With the Twitter account, I know when it’s coming over. In advance. And that’s lovely.

Tonight, it was due to pass over at 2015. Before dinner, I looked out of the loft skylight and there it went, moving east-north-east, taking three or four minutes to journey from horizon to horizon. It glimmered in the dusk, its six occupants whizzing round the planet every 92 minutes and 24 seconds.

There is something simply magical about the ISS. And knowing in advance that it’s coming over is similarly magical. And if you’re reading this? Get outside: it’s coming over London again at 2152.

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