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.”

Space station spotting service announced

Photo: Arc of the International Space Station passing through the Big Dipper. Credit: Chris Christie.
The ISS passed through the “Big Dipper” August 23, 2012. Photo by Chris Christie.

WASHINGTON — On the 12th anniversary of crews continuously living and working aboard the International Space Station, NASA announced a new service to help people see the orbiting laboratory when it passes overhead. “Spot the Station” will send an email or text message to those who sign up for the service a few hours before they will be able to see the space station.

Nov. 2 marked 12 years of continuous human habitation of the space station.

“It’s really remarkable to see the space station fly overhead and to realize humans built an orbital complex that can be spotted from Earth by almost anyone looking up at just the right moment,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations. “We’re accomplishing science on the space station that is helping to improve life on Earth and paving the way for future exploration of deep space.”

When the space station is visible — typically at dawn and dusk — it is the brightest object in the night sky, other than the moon. On a clear night, the station is visible as a fast moving point of light, similar in size and brightness to the planet Venus. “Spot the Station” users will have the options to receive alerts about morning, evening or both types of sightings.

The International Space Station’s trajectory passes over more than 90 percent of Earth’s population. The service is designed to only notify users of passes that are high enough in the sky to be easily visible over trees, buildings and other objects on the horizon. NASA’s Johnson Space Center calculates the sighting information several times a week for more than 4,600 locations worldwide, all of which are available on “Spot the Station.”

To sign up for “Spot the Station,” visit:

For information about the International Space Station and a full list of sightings, visit:

Source: NASA Press Release

Right through the dipper!

Photo: Arc of the International Space Station passing through the Big Dipper. Credit: Chris Christie.
The ISS passed through the “Big Dipper” August 23, 2012. Photo by Chris Christie.

There was a bright, beautiful pass by the International Space Station the night of August 23, 2012. Alerted by CAA member Jay Reynolds, fellow member Chris Christie set up his camera and got an excellent shot of the station’s arc. That night’s pass was of the “fading” type; the space station rises above the horizon reflecting sunlight and, due to the Sun’s angle and the projection of Earth’s shadow into space, crosses into that shadow while still very high in the sky. The path of the ISS, as viewed from Northeastern Ohio, took it right through the Big Dipper asterism. Light pollution provides color above the horizon. Christie’s photo data: Canon EOS Rebel T3: ISO 800, f/3.5, 18mm, 55-second exposure started at 9:39 PM.

Splendid photo of the space station

Photo: Starry background with streaking space station trail 8-6-2012. Credit: Dave Nuti.
The ISS crosses the sky in brilliant fashion in this image by Dave Nuti.

CAA member Dave Nuti was all set to photograph a brilliant pass of the International Space Station visible from Northeastern Ohio the night of August 6, 2012. The pass was to take the ISS across an area near the heart of the Milky Way as seen from here. Nuti’s result was a splendid view of the night sky, galactic star clouds floating, dotted by suns closer in. The image even captured bright patches — star clusters in our galaxy — on that clear night. Constellation fans will notice the “teapot” of Sagittarius just to the left of center, and the stars of Scorpius spanning the left side of Nuti’s picture.

Technical Info — Nikon D70: ISO 1600, f/4.5, ~45 seconds, 20mm, August 6, 2012, from Letha House Park, near Spencer, Ohio. Photo by Dave Nuti.