Thursday, July 9, 2009

A snapshot of the space station - solar arrays and all

ISS zoomed
You wouldn't know what it was unless I told you, but this really is the International Space Station.

As the International Space Station made another pass early Wednesday morning, I again attempted another time lapse, like these from Tuesday night. But when I realized that the lights of the city were causing too much interference, I changed tactics.

I quickly switched out my wide-angle Tokina for my telephoto Sigma, then focused the 500mm lens on Venus, one of the brightest objects in the night sky. With the lens focused, I could then try to shoot the space station as it zipped overhead at 17,200 mph.

There was no time to affix the camera to a tripod. At its highest elevation of 54 degrees, the station was its brightest. With less atmospheric distortion at the greater height, I knew that would be my only chance to photograph the station with a few quick snapshots.

The resulting image above is tightly cropped and enlarged. There's an incredible amount of interference surrounding the spacecraft, but you can still make out its central portion and, essentially, two adjacent blobs, each made up of two pairs of solar arrays. The fourth and final set was delivered after a beautiful launch of Discovery in March.

In the future, I might try a tripod, then combine all the resulting images in this free program called Lynkeos, which is meant for this type of astrophotography. Supposedly, it eliminates atmospheric distortion by layering different exposures. Sounds like a lot of work. Or, I might just get a telescope. And I might start playing the lottery in a desperate attempt to fund all of this.

space station no crop_0025
This is the original image. Even with my lens zoomed in at 500mm, the space station is just a tiny speck.

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