International Space Station Lunar Transit

Lachlan Wilson captured an image of the ISS transiting the moon, Monday 31 August, 9:30 pm

Lachlan Wilson captured an image of the ISS transiting the moon, Monday 31 August, 9:30 pm

 

by Lachlan Wilson, Year 9 

On Monday 31 August, about 9:30pm, the International Space Station (ISS) had a visible pass between Canberra and the Moon. Although advertised as visible in “Canberra”, it had a very specific pass path. I captured these images from Acton Peninsula in Central Canberra. This chance to capture this is very rare without having to drive at least 50km. The ISS was going to be visible for only 0.61s (yes, just over half a second). Very quick.

Using the website Calsky, I was able to pinpoint the location and the exact time of the pass. Throughout the week, I kept checking the website for updates closer to the event.

At 9:30.17s, the ISS was set to cross the moon. Arriving there 15 mins early, we saw heavy cloud which can affect how an image is captured and edited. Five minutes before the event, the clouds started to thin, which was a good sign. Using a Canon EOS 70D, I knew that the camera would be able to capture about 8 images per second. At 9:30.15s, I pressed the shoot button to start shooting. I knew that if the camera upheld the 8 shots per second, I would be able to get at least 4 frames of the ISS. It turns out that I had the timing wrong, and as it reached 9:30.20s, the camera started slowing down to about 2 frames per second. After reviewing the images, as the shots slowed down, the ISS passed across the moon. I got it! I only got one frame with the ISS, so I feel very lucky. After processing it, it turned out quite pixelated and fuzzy but with quite a nice ISS. You can see the Solar arrays on the ISS which were facing towards Earth for next time it sees sunlight.

Lachlan setting up his camera, to capture the lunar transit of ISS

My image of the International Space Station had been in the making for about a week. I had recently watched a video on an Astrophotographer in Byron Bay, Dylan O’Donnell, who had captured an ISS transit in 2015. This inspired me to try to capture it. I first looked on Calsky to try to find a transit, and I was hoping for one in the next year. Because of the relative sizes of the moon and ISS, the path that the transit is visible from is very isolated and tight.  I got the images at Acton Peninsula in Central Canberra.

As I admire the work of Dr Brad Tucker [Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the ANU] (father of Orion in Year 1), I sent the photos to him, and I was thrilled when he shared them on social media pages.

I have always been intrigued and interested in space and have always wanted to study it. My interest in Astrophotography started when I first got a telescope from the Radford fete last year. As I explored the solar system with that, I wanted to share my experience with others by taking images. As I progressed, I borrowed our family camera to take photos of deep space objects, including the Orion Nebula (M42), Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Pleiades Cluster (M45). My neighbour has also lent me one of his camera lenses, which has enabled me to photograph the solar system, (Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon) better than before. Being able to capture this sort of photography is quite easy with a DSLR camera. These photos are created by having the shutter of a camera open for a long time to collect as much light as possible in an image.

ISS Lunar Transit, image Lachlan Wilson

Above, the full moon version of Lachlan's capture of the transit. 

Equipment

  • Canon EOS 70D
  • Rokinon 800mm Mirror Lens
  • Lightweight tripod

 

Image

  • 1/2000th shutter speed
  • Set f/8 aperture
  • ISO 3200

 


Below, Lachlan's images of Andromeda (L) and the Milky Way (R)

Andromeda, image by Lachlan Wilson Milky Way, image by Lachlan Wilson 

Below, the configuration of the International Space Station, image credit NASA.

International Space Station - image credit NASA

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