This is a very special post for many reasons. I’ve been imaging the International Space Station for years now and it usually takes time to get used to the new astronauts – at least to me. Thomas Pesquet is one of the really cool ones in my opinion, he was heavily involved in science (just like the others of course) and he was/is a great ambassador for space travel, science and astronomy during his stay on board the station.
How cool is the fact, that whilst I am writing this blog post, I am also watching Nasa TV showing Thomas and Oleg as they have just landed in Kazahstan and making their way out of the landing module.
Last night was a promising night with two very bright ISS pass, a possible SpaceX Dragon supply vehicle launch and some proper deep sky observation too.
Sadly the Dragon was grounded due weather circumstances, which wasn’t the best news as I really wanted to give a try on imaging at 3000mm focal length. Next time I guess….
The first ISS pass happened just a little bit before 10pm, part of the sky was still fairly bright so I didn’t give time lapse imaging much chance yet. The close up shots didn’t give me the results I was expecting, but it was still an amazing experience to see it and show it to friends and their neighbours. They loved it!
Sometimes I have problem with imaging, nobody said this is walk in the park though. Occasionally, despite doing the exact same drill as usual the result is just not coming.
But remaining determent and keen on trying to achieve my best mostly pays off – sooner or later.
The second pass went up to 59 degrees of elevation. You can see the screenshots saved from Heavens-Above website. They always give a very accurate prediction of the expected illuminated ISS passes.
As prediction showed, ISS was passing above Moon, Jupiter and even Arcturus too. Timing was super accurate as always, so decided to keep taking 30 second expos and made a composite photo with the individual frames to make its full pass visible.
This is a video footage – kind of a summary about the night
Whilst the camera was clicking, I was busy with preparing my Skywatcher 250/1200 Flextube dobson scope for close up imaging.
It went fine, quickly sorted out the good frames with PIPP in ISS mode and later, running through all the frames I had to realize the success. It always feels amazing, when some kind of details reveal themselves, parts like the Cupola, BEAM, Leonardo module, Kibo and Columbus modules etc.
Once the ISS buzz was over, I let my camera continue taking photos looking north-east direction. In the meantime – for the first time I could test my 10″dobson under clear sky with no light pollution.
After we did the most visible object – moon, Jupiter and Saturn – my hunger was huge for deep sky objects.
So I started with Albireo, a wonderful double star. Then hopped onto M57 Ring nebula, M13 Hercules cluster, Mizar double star and eventually M51 Whirlpool galaxy.
Well M51 really blow my mind!! I expected one faint fuzzy ball and that’s it. Instead I saw faintly the spiral arms of the galaxy too… no words really. Not bad – just think about it, that object is approx. 23 million light-years away. Really left me speechless.
A bit of spinning with planet Earth
Skywatcher 250/1200 Flextube scope on dobson base
Zwo ASI120MM camera
Zwo Red filter
Televue 2.5x powermate