Hunting the Elusive International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is a wonderful example of what humanity can do if we set aside our squabbles. It’s also readily available to view from many locations on earth, as it orbits overhead. I’ve been very impressed by some astrophotographers who have been able to capture photos of the ISS from the ground, and have been trying out a few things myself.

On Saturday 5 August 2017 I was able to get my best pictures to date, shooting from Pier 8 at Hamilton Harbour. The Space Station made a fairly leisurely pass just before 10 PM, arching up to 30 degrees above the horizon. I set up two cameras for the pass. One, with a wide angle lense, snapped away 30 second time exposures every 33 seconds, to create a background star trail image. Onto this I was able to add graphics showing constellations and trace out the course of the ISS:

Layout 2 5 Aug 2017 copyright D Galbraith

The International Space Station (blue traces and inserts) passing north of Hamilton, Ontario on 5 August 2017. The blue trace was superimposed over top of the original track of the station captured on a series of 30 second exposures stacked with StarStaX. The inset images are from the composite below. The view is looking roughly north. 

The second camera was mounted on my 125mm Meade Terabeam Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope on a photography tripod. I aimed this my hand and took both individual photos and video of the station at it passed. While most of the shots were smeared, a few recorded a little recognizable ISS detail:

Layout 1 5 Aug 2017 copyright D Galbraith

Some of the better individual images of the International Space Station photographed over Hamilton, Ontario on 5 August 2017. The gold “wings” visible in the images are the stations large solar panels. Images earlier and later in the sequence definitely show differences in aspect as the station rotates slowly to keep its solar panels aligned with the sun.

While these are not nearly as good as some photos taken by experts such as France’s Thierry Legault (http://www.astrophoto.fr/) I’m still pretty pleased.

Post and images are copyright 2017 David Galbraith.
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