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Monday, 25 December, 2000, 14:16 GMT
Space station in UK skies
Space station AP
The station orbits Earth roughly every 90 minutes
One of the brightest lights shining in the night sky over the UK on Christmas Day was the International Space Station (ISS).

Where there was little cloud cover, the station was visible to the naked eye from 1634 until 1641 GMT. It could also be seen again at 1809 GMT before vanishing four minutes later.

Only the Moon, Venus and Jupiter outshone the platform.

Since the solar wings that help power the 40bn station were unfurled and began reflecting sunlight, the ISS has become almost as dazzling as the brightest star Sirius.

Giant wings

The platform orbits 400 kilometres (248 miles) above Earth and is moving at 27,353 kilometres per hour (17,000 miles per hour).

The ISS goes around the Earth roughly every 90 minutes, or about 16 times a day, travelling from west to east.

The wings measure 73 metres (240 feet) across, a longer span than a Boeing 777 airliner. Each wing is more than 30 metres (100 feet) long - longer than the station itself.

Onboard, the Expedition 1 crew - US astronaut Bill Shepherd and Russians Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev - will have opened presents delivered by a Russian cargo ship and the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour.

Turkey dinner

Expedition 1 were given a day off from work and were free to read, watch films or sleep.

A heat-treated re-hydrated turkey dinner would have been on the menu, according to Peter Bond, space science advisor to the Royal Astronomical Society, UK.

With the addition of three more sets of solar panels, the ISS is set to become a dominant feature in the night sky.

Within five years, the station will house seven astronauts and be big enough to fill the old Wembley Stadium.

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See also:

24 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Christmas in space
04 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Night sky gets 'new star'
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