International Space Station in 2002

4 Jun 2002

Only my second attempt to look for the ISS since December 2000 (my first, in April was a failure as inexplicably I missed it or there was some mistake in the prediction). A beautiful evening presented itself in Hay - on - Wye, a quaint little market town, full of second-hand bookshops, on the border between England and Wales. The sighting of the ISS and my recording it on camera rounded off a satisfactory evening, having first caught a daylight Iridium flare, then the Golden Jubilee planetary conjunction.

The ISS was predicted to rise in the west at 22:44, though I did not spot it until it was at about 30 degrees. It was fairly faint to begin with but rapidly increased in brightness as it passed nearly overhead just over a minute later. An attempt to photograph it in the same shot as Venus and Jupiter low in the west was a failure as it did not show up with the small aperture I had to use to prevent the remaining light in the sky from over-exposing the shot.

After reaching a maximum elevation of about 70 degrees high in the south the space station continued to brighten, presumably as a more favourable Sun - Station - observer angle developed to reflect more light in my direction. I estimate that it reached a maximum brightness of about -2, and it remained well in excess of magnitude 0 until it disappeared behind cloud in the east a couple of minutes later.

A second photograph while it was receding was altogether more successful...

ISS over Hay - on - Wye, 4 June 2002

ISS passing from west to east over Hay - on - Wye. This picture faces east and shows the station receding, travelling downwards in the shot. I have used a wide-angle lens and the trail shows the motion in 32 seconds, the maximum exposure that the camera allows. Travelling at about 8km (5 miles) per second it covered 256km in this time, at an altitude of around 300km. Its sedate and steady motion across the sky as seen from Earth makes it hard to imagine just how fast it is actually travelling.

The sky was not entirely dark, but keeping the aperture small I have managed to avoid over-exposure, and even the foreground (Hay Conservative Club) adds some interest to the shot. It does mean though that the station does not appear as bright in the picture as it did in life.

It passes through fairly faint stars in the constellation Hercules, and the bright star Vega, in the constellation Lyra, is to the top left of the picture.

4 Jun 2002, 22:48BST (21:48UT). Minolta Dimage 7, 7.4mm, 32s @ f/3.5, ISO400


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