Chasing the Dragon

On May 30th, SpaceX and NASA teamed up to launch astronauts from American soil for the first time since 2011, using the brand new Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket. It was an astounding success and while I still have never seen a launch in person at least I got to watch online. Astronomers waste no time tracking rockets in orbit, so almost immediately information about how to see the crew capsule on its way to the ISS started being posted online. A few people recommended Heavens-Above, from which I was able to discern that it might be visible from the backyard that evening. It was worth a shot and I wasn't going to miss the opportunity.

I knew that using my Celestron 11" SCT would be overkill and almost impossible to catch the capsule going by, so I decided to setup a simple 16-35mm and get a trail of it going by. A few neighbors came out and we were watching closely were it was supposed to fly by, but unfortunately we didn't see anything. I locked the camera shutter release down to continuously keep shooting and while I didn't see it go by I did catch it in the lower left side of the frame.

Dragon Capsule
The Dragon Capsule

Despite missing the Dragon capsule I knew the ISS was not far behind, and that is obvious when it goes overhead, so at least we'd be able to see that. Sure enough about 15 minutes later the ISS tracked from the horizon up overhead, delighting everyone watching. It quietly slipped into the Earth's shadow and disappeared just past the zenith.

I wasn't 100% sure about whether or not that was the Dragon going by, but looking at the time stamp, angle, and direction in the sky I can't imagine its anything else. When I stacked everything together you can see the capsule is moving the same direction as the space station as it attempts to catch up to it for docking.

Timelapse capturing the Dragon Capsule and ISS
The Dragon Capsule and ISS time lapse

Doug and Bob should be aboard the station for the next few months, so see if you can spot the ISS going overhead. Clear skies!