Capturing the ISS again

Back in June I was able to photograph the ISS transiting the moon for the first time, and while I was generally happy with it, I knew I could do better. So ever since I have been keeping an eye on to see when I could get another chance to try again.

Just a few days before Christmas I saw a pass would occur to the west of me by a few miles, and as luck would have it, pass almost right over my friends Doug & Heather's house! Fantastic! The only thing was it was going to be at 5:58am, and the day after Christmas, meaning the weather was a definite wild card.

Transit Finder tool
Using the transit finder tool to plot another ISS capture

I woke up at 4:30am and poking my head outside saw it was pretty clear, just a slight haze around the moon. I packed everything up and jumped in the car, getting more and more concerned with the fog. Thankfully it was staying close to the ground and straight up was still pretty good.

I set everything up with a few minutes to spare and it started getting more and more hazy. Test shots in the camera still looked really good so I thought I would have a good chance. The ISS finder app on my phone indicated that it was tracking straight up and just breaking over the horizon, so I started visually scanning the sky for it. During my last attempt it was not lit by the sun so I couldn't see it until during transit. This time it was illuminated so it would look like a fast moving star. Depending on the altitude of the ISS and a few other factors the station can appear anywhere from very small to somewhat large in the sky. I was delighted to find it exactly where it should be, shining brightly and right on track to pass over the moon.

Spotting the ISS
Spotting the ISS just before transit

The bright speck just above the tree is the ISS, exactly where it should be, exactly on time. This time I was able to record the flyby on my iPhone since I wasn't crouched behind the scope looking through the camera. I watched it as it flew overhead, firing the remote just before transit. I got four frames just before, and another four as it passsed in front of the moon. I quickly disconnected my camera, checked out the preview, and let out a little yell.

Here is the 8 frames I captured of the station just before and during transit.

Full Transit - 9 frames
The International Space Station lunar transit 8 stack shot

Here is a close up of the station just before transit. It's one of the few times I have gone from what I see in my head to exactly what I see on the screen perfectly. That is always extremely satisfying.

ISS close up
The International Space Station just before transiting the moon

I've wanted to capture this exact shot for years, it took a lot of patience and a few attempts but it was worth the hard work. I am still blown away by the results. You can clearly see the structure of the station and even the color of the solar arrays. For an object moving at about 17,500mph I think it's pretty clear. I got lucky with the position, capturing it just before crossing over.

I'm definitely hooked and will be trying to get even clearer shots in the future. At 51.41 arc seconds the station was fairly large, but I've seen transits listed in the 60's before. Just for reference my first successful attempt was only about 28 arc seconds. Always room for improvement!

Next up is the lunar eclipse in January, and possibly attempting an ISS solar transit. Stay tuned!