It’s more than just a bright light

The International Space Station – August 2, 2019. Photo by James Guilford.

It is possible to get images of the International Space Station (ISS) that show more than a beautiful, bright streak across the night sky. Outside of the spit-second timing of shooting the ISS’s silhouette against the Sun or Moon, one rarely sees images of the station as it moves across the starry night sky. “I thought I’d take advantage of Friday night’s (August 2, 2019) brilliant pass and try a still photo of the station,” wrote photographer and CAA member James Guilford. “I’d actually been wanting to try this for some time. Getting focus right turned out not to be as difficult as getting the exposure right and the darned thing was just brilliant — I overexposed by possibly two stops. While I lost out on station details but for some solar panels, I did pick up some background stars! This was my second try at a still image. Third time’s the charm?”

Here’s the equipment list and exposure info:

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark 2
  • Canon EF400 FL Telephoto Lens (The camera’s cropped sensor makes the 400mm the close equivalent to a 600mm lens.)
  • Shutter: 1/1,600 sec.
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • ISO: 4,000
  • Finally: Heavily cropped, exposure adjusted in Photoshop

How was the camera guided? “The camera and lens were handheld and hand-tracked” he explained. “My experience with photographing birds and dragonflies in flight helped!”

The target is very small and moves quickly across the sky. Guilford wrote, “Much is made of the fact the ISS spans a space about the size of a football field but you’re trying to photograph that football field from more than 250 miles away! It. Is. Small.”

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Author: Webmaster

I am Webmaster for the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association. I also participate in outreach programming in public observing and occasional presentations on behalf of the CAA and a local college.