Saturday, August 21, 2010

Shooting The Moon

"Shoot The Moon: To attempt the near-impossible." 
-- Urban Dictionary

I've attempted to photograph the International Space Station (ISS) as it passes in front of the Sun or Moon on at least four occasions.

I've been "successful" twice.

Successful is in scare quotes as while I've made images with the ISS in them, the first time no one would know that for looking at them. For the one and only solar transit I attempted to photograph, the ISS is there, but only as a blurred smudge. Bummer.*

I tried again yesterday as the ISS transited the Moon. And I finally obtained images worth showing. Not great images by any means. But images such when I say you can see the ISS people will generally believe me.

See it? (As always, click on the images to bigafy.) It is right there just below Mare Tranquillitatis, to the left of Mare Fecunditatis, and above Mare Nectaris. (That is, in that light area surrounded by dark areas one third of the way from the right edge and just about halfway from top to bottom. Yeah, it is a squarish black dot.)

I did say "generally".

Here is a second shot using the same camera, a Canon 50D with a 100-400mm lens at 400mm, with a 2x doubler, for a focal length of 800mm.

See how it moved? The black spot, err, ISS is now near the crater Copernicus (the bright spot a bit above the center line and toward the left edge).

The sharp eyed among you may have noticed another black dot in the upper center of the image. A bird perhaps?

I was using two cameras and I managed to get it with my second camera as well, a Canon 20D using a Quester 700 mirror lens, with a focal length of 700mm.

Curiously, the ISS is almost at the same spot as in the first image.

Both cameras were at ISO 800 with a shutter speed of 1/500 sec. The 50D was at f/11 and the 20D at f/8, the maximum aperture for both.

The space station took all of 1.01 seconds to cross the face of the Moon. And it was not visible except when silhouetted. So we, I was there with seven friends, five of us who were attempting to image the event, aimed our cameras at the moon and started firing away when the time signal on our shortwave radio hit the time the transit was to start. We all captured at least one image. I had both cameras set to multi-shot and used wired remotes to trigger the shutter. I fired off sixty-six shots (49 with the 50D and 17 with the 20D).

And managed three with the ISS in them.

Yep, successful.

No scare quotes.

* To read the story of that outing and see what a real photographer can do, click here. Be sure to read the very last sentence (in the "Other Observers" section just before the exposure data.) To read Jerry's story of last night's festivities, and see his image (much better than mine) click here.


Ron a.k.a. Danudin said...

Hey Steve, Thanks for taking us along on this "Star (Moon) Trek" to somewhere this man has never been before. Way Kool Dude! as those much younger than I might utter! Whooppee!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I'd say it was a success! You have to be amazingly dedicated to work through the intricacies of planning to photograph an occurrence such as this. Well done.

MRC said...


I attempted this from eastern CT with a nearly identical set up (Just swap the 50D for a 40D). No luck this time around, but it is so motivating to see that it can be done!

Anonymous said...

How cool is that! When is your next attempt at capturing another image?

Zen Photography said...

Great Moon shot !! I've never been sucessful at taken a photo of the moon. I don't think that is the ISS, looks more like a UFO.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”