The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Space Shuttle and ISS Passes

Not many chances to see both the ISS and the Shuttle at the same time, but we get some chances coming up.  The Shuttle undocks tonight at 7:54 EST.  For the U.S., the next couple of days favor the early birds as the passes will take place in the morning.  You can find times and where to look for your location at Heavens Above or with the Spaceweather Simple Satellite Tracker.

It is fun to photograph these flybys.  All you need is a camera capable of doing times exposures and a tripod.  Use a lens with a nice wide field of view.  I use a Canon Digital Rebel XTi with the 18-55mm zoom lens that was included with it.  15-30 second exposures produce nice trail lengths.  I vary the ISO depending on lighting conditions.  I use higher ISO when the sky is darker.  If it is close to sunrise or sunset and the sky is light, use a low ISO so you don’t overexpose the sky.  I always get out before the scheduled pass so I can do a few test shots to find the right settings.  Here is a shot of the ISS and Shuttle I took last November in Tucson.

The ISS is on the right and the Shuttle on the left.  Look closely at the very end of the ISS streak on the right. Note to it is turning red and fading.  The ISS is going into Earth’s shadow.  The astronauts on board are experiencing sunset!  The light at sunset is reddened and you can see that in the reflected light of the ISS here as well.

I don’t know if I will try to photograph them.  They passes here in Tucson are very low in the sky the next couple of days and might be tough to get.  Still, I have the lovely mountains in the background so I might be able to motivate myself to get up for that!


February 19, 2010 - Posted by | Astrophotography, NASA

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