ISS This Morning

dolphin   Earlier this morning the ISS, International Space station, flew over the midwest in a path that lasted 4 minutes and at its peak the ISS reached 85 degrees in altitude – nearly straight up. The path it followed took it from the southwest horizon across the summer triangle past the star Altair in Aquila the Eagle, towards the east northeast horizon.
   I was hoping to catch the ISS as it flew past some interesting groups of stars like the two small constellations of Sagitta the Arrow and Delphinus the Dolphin however the sky was too bright at this early hour for those stars to show up against the brighter background.
   In this sequence of images the sky at 0530 CDT was fairly bright and there were some high cirrus clouds but the ISS was as bright as Venus appears and was very easy to follow with my camera. The images are 2 second time exposures with an aperture setting of f4, and the lens was backed out to 18mm for a wide field of view.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

ISS and Uranus

29 December - 6:42 pm CST

29 December – 6:42 pm CST

   After complaining about cloudy skies the other day I got a break last night and had very clear skies. As a result I was able to capture a sequence of images of the ISS flying over my part of the world. I use the Starry Night Pro program to simulate the flight path of the ISS so I can determine where best to aim my camera. My technique is basically to use a wide angle (18 mm) lens and once I determine the appropriate F-stop and shutter speeds I lock the tripod and wait until the ISS appears. Then I take pictures either manually from the laptop or with a digital cable release set to take a sequence of pictures. My preference, however, is to use the utility program that came with the camera. I connect the camera with a USB cable to the laptop and this gives me a real-time view on my laptop computer screen as well as remote control of the camera settings and picture taking. The camera is on a tripod several feet away to reduce any camera jitters.
ISS in Motion

click on the image to see it full size and animated

   During the fly-over the ISS was traveling toward the southeast and crossed the ‘Square of Pegasus’ asterism, and then past the ‘Circlet’ asterism in Pisces coming within a few degrees from the planet Uranus. The images are each 3.2 second time exposures – long enough to capture the dim stars making up the ‘Circlet’ – but also so long in the sense that in 3.2 seconds the ISS has moved enough to show up as a streak of light, like star trails in longer time exposures. This animated graphic is slightly faster than the actual event but I have set it to give a sense of how quickly the ISS moves and how its brightness increase, peaks, then fades.
Click to see this image larger   Looking toward the east were the stars of the Pleiades and, lower toward the horizon were Jupiter and the Hyades. Obviously I couldn’t resist!
   And then this morning there was a neat contrast between the reds and pinks toward the west, the setting waning gibbous Moon, and some high thin cirrus clouds.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Moon, Jupiter, and ISS

   Last night proved to be too overcast to get a good picture of the Moon and Jupiter rising together. This was about the clearest picture I was able to get as the sky got progressively cloudy throughout the evening.
   This morning it was nearly as cloudy and especially in the direction of the setting Moon and Jupiter. However there were breaks in the clouds and at the predicted time of 6:09 a.m. CST the International Space Station popped into view above the northwest horizon. This particular fly-over took the ISS to an altitude of 65 degrees as it headed southeastward toward Venus and Saturn. It faded from view 3 minutes later, before reaching that part of the sky though, again at the predicted time.

ISS and the Big Dipper

   I did manage to get one picture of the ISS, the short blurred line, as it crossed the stars on the Big Dipper.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.