"Mankind will not remain for ever on the Earth..." - Konstantin Tsiolkovsky


02 February 2012

For over 5 minutes the ISS graciously glided across the sky from SW to NE, reaching 41-degrees altitude, as seen from Johannesburg. Below is a cropped image of a 5-minutes long exposure, showing the ISS trail between Jupiter and Moon, as well as Venus low above western horizon.

22 January 2012

Another rocket fuel dump has been captured! This time it is from Sutherland, South Africa by Willie Koorts, who writes: "I was alerted by a group of enthusiasts, who specialise in tracking down launches, that I may be able to spot the fuel dump of the Delta 4 WGS 4 satellite launch from Sutherland, even though it is nearly 12,000km away. Unfortunately it meant getting up at 03h00 local time, but the view was worth it! I managed to track the cloud of fuel to ~20,000km, then only 2.6 degrees above my local horizon from SAAO Sutherland. Around 03h40, I noticed a bright blob to the left and below the Moon, in between the cloud layers!  Now, checking the camera's display as every new picture appeared, it was seen to be slowly moving!  So, this was where I was hijacked since I continued shooting until ~04h00 by which time it disappeared into the cloud, but dimmed substantially as well."

It can be very tricky, but it is possible to photograph the whole 3.5 minute pass of the International Space Station with a single exposure under bright moonlight. All you need is a camera, fish-eye lens and a tripod.Oh yes, the ISO must be set to minimum value. Unusually for this time of the year in South Africa, the sky was absolutely clear. Bright planets also can be seen in the image: Venus is in the lower left and Jupiter is in the upper right corner of the image. Canon DSLR as ISO-100, fish-eye lens, 222 s exposure.


Willie Koorts (SAAO) from Western Cape has sent us this image of the last flight of the Shuttle Atlantis and ISS together:

I looked at an older schedule and thought Atlantis would have landed already by tonight's ISS pass, but was delighted when your email indicated they will still be close together. Since you expected them to be a few minutes apart, I decided to concentrate on one part of the sky, rather than trying to follow them. When heavens-above showed they will pass close to Crux, my target field was decided.

I concentrated so much when to start the exposure on Atlantis that I only later noticed that ISS was following it very closely, in fact, both could fit inside one frame! But I was already committed to my planned shot, so could not dare move the camera. So, while exposing, I could enjoy the two bright satellites chasing each other. What an amazing sight and a tremendous closure to the Shuttle program in this way.

Afterwards, using Rot'nStack, I combined them, to show how close their orbits matched. I also include a 2nd picture, showing some detail but also light pollution!


Greg Roberts (satellite tracker) from Western Cape writes:

Many thanks for the "heads up" -- I went outside and had a look and saw the shuttle leading the ISS by about 20-30 degrees - the shuttle being the fainter object. They passed just below Crux as they headed southwards and went into eclipse in the south.

Weather permitting Ill have a look again tomorrow - sad to see the end of the shuttle and even sadder that the US Space program is becoming a ghost of its former self with all the cut-backs - who could have imagined 20-30 years ago that the US Space program would have to rely on another country to be able to reach ISS..

19 May 2011

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The sky was perfect, the equipment was set up and we had a friend-astronomer from Waterberg (Limpopo province) visiting us. Just few seconds before the ISS was about to appear in the North-West, my daughter noticed very bright flash of light coming from the same direction, but we have agreed that it was an iridium flare from a satellite. Once the ISS become visible, Wens Coetzer started 4 minutes long exposure through the fish-eye lens and I began imaging the ISS. It flew through the whole sky, gradually increasing in brightness, reaching an altitude of 70 degrees and slowly disappearing above the South-Eastern horizon. Just as we stopped our cameras, a large fireball with a bright orange-colored tail, stretching for over 20 degrees, flew from above in the South-Western direction! It was spectacular! The ISS images were obtained with an 11" telescope and Canon EOS-350 DSLR.

Image by Wens Coetzer


As the evening of 12 April 2011 approached, the International Space Station with TMA-21 space ship, docked to it, traveled across the sky above South Africa. TMA-21 was named "GAGARIN" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of the most important dates in the history of space exploration.

The weather conditions couldn't be worse for imaging the Space Station, but it was a wonderful spectacle and I still managed to acquire few images


2010-06-01 Two images were taken 10 minutes apart and combined together for comparecement of aparent angular sizes at the time. The exposute was set vor Venus. The ISS is underexposed. The background ov Venus is lighter due to the fact, that the sky was still light , the image was taken 10 minutes earlier than ISS, Venus was low in the west, where the sky was brighter.





2010-02-21 On Sunday night, first Shuttle, and 10 minutes later the ISS passed over Southern Africa, from South-West, over the half-lit Moon, disappearing in Earth’s shadow in North-East.

Kos Coronaios from Limpopo Astronomy / Soutpansberg astronomy Club has captured wide-field view of the ISS path, while I got myself into “high-speed chase” of the Shuttle and ISS.


Image by Kos Coronaios

The image below is a combination of two images, taken 10 minutes apart.

2009-12-24 One of the best visible from South Africa passes of the International Space Station with docked Soyuz TMA17 spacecraft ! Equipment used: TAL-200 Klevtsov-Cassegrain telescope on Equatorial mount; Canon-EOS 350D camera at prime focus. The image of Jupiter was taken just minutes before the event and has been inserted into the main image for comparison of the apparent sizes and brightness. Both images were taken at ISO-400 and 1/800 sec shutter speed. The shutter speed was set for the ISS.


2009-12-22 Just minutes before ISS appeared above the horizon, Kos Coronaios in Louis Trichardt and myself in Johannesburg had our equipment set and ready for action. It first was noticed as a bright star of orange color, almost stationary. My Foton AstroCam was set up on a normal tripod, aimed at two stars, where according to predictions by Heavens Above the ISS was supposed to pass.. and it did! The video clip and frame size have been reduced down to 650 kB for easy download

Kos has done series of wide field images as ISS was moving across the sky ..


.. and I have decided to use the opportunity and take few close-up images. I've ended up with almost 250! But no regret, they came out quite good. This image shows ISS as it appeared approximately 30 degrees above horizon.


... and this image shows ISS when it almost reached it's maximum altitude of over 60 degrees as was seen from Johannesburg . Both images are single exposures, solar panels and structure are clearly seen on both images


Just over a minute after ISS has gone into the Earth's shadow, Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft followed, but with apparently different orbit, heading towards Pleades. I've manages to take a number of images, but this one has really surprised me. It looks nothing like the rest of images. What is it?

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