Photographing the ISS: From preparation to the finished picture

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Photographing the ISS: From preparation to the finished picture
Photographing the ISS: From preparation to the finished picture
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Photographing the ISS: From preparation to the finished picture

For the terrestrial observer, the International Space Station, ISS for short, is usually just a bright point of light in the sky. Details can hardly be made out visually with small to medium-sized telescopes. With a digital camera and a few image processing steps, however, it is possible to exploit the full potential of an amateur telescope and get a sharp image of the ISS.

Image
Image

The International Space Station (ISS) can be observed from Europe several times a year for a few weeks at a time. It then moves across the sky from west to east as a bright point, comparable to the apparent speed of a high-flying airplane. The ISS can only be seen when it is illuminated by the sun and has not yet entered the Earth's shadow. The exact visibility times for your own location can be determined, for example, with the help of the "Heavens above" website.

The size of the space station - larger than a football field - in combination with its low orbit of about 400 kilometers gives an apparent extension on near-zenith passes that roughly corresponds to that of the planet Jupiter at the time of its most favorable visibility. So it should be easy to see details of the ISS through telescopes. But it's not that easy, because the flying research laboratory moves across the sky quite quickly. So simple set-up and tracking with long focal length optics capable of resolving details of the space station doesn't work in practiceā€¦

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