Launched in Feb 1986 - I have been observing Mir on and off since about 1993.
The Mir Space station and its attendant modules can be seen at intervals
throughout the year . Mir can typically be seen for a couple of weeks in evening skies,
then is lost for roughly the same time in daylight, reappears for a couple of weeks in
morning skies, is eclipsed for a short time (depending upon the observer's location and
time of year) before returning to an evening sky.
When visible it can be quite bright, reaching magnitude -1 or better, thanks to
the large combined surface area of its modules. It is not untypical to catch a flash of up
to mag. -3 off one of its solar arrays. In binoculars a hint of a bronze-yellow colour can
often be seen. At various times during the year it is possible to see a closing or departing
Soyuz-TM or Progress-M vehicle.
The first I have heard of the de-orbit of Mir was in 1998. Plans have come and gone, but it
seems the latest story for the a de-orbit in Feb 2001 may be the one. Mir eventually re-entered
the atmosphere on March 23rd. The re-entry was visible from the Fijian Islands.