Astrophoto: Seeing the Cygnus Capsule Before Its Demise

Article written: 23 Oct , 2013
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015
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Here’s a nice photo of the trails in the sky from the International Space Station and Orbital Science’s Cygnus freighter. This was captured just a few hours after Cygnus was undocked from the station on October 22, 2013. Astrophotographer Wendy Clark says to “please ignore my garden spaceship to the right,” but sorry, having a model of the starship Enterprise in your yard is just too wonderful to ignore!

This is a 20 sec exposure at ISO 1600 f4.5, 18mm, taken at 19.25 BST. The brightened spot is a flare (sun-glint) from one of the spacecraft.

And about an hour ago from this posting, Orbital Sciences confirmed that the Cygnus had deorbited:

Cygnus’ mission elapsed time (launch through deorbit) was 35 days 3 hours 18 minutes 27 seconds

Here’s another great photo of the two spacecraft together in the sky from Germany by Wolfgang Dzieran:

The International Space Station and the Cygnus capsule on October 22, 2013, as seen from from Bad Lippspringe, Eastwestphalia, Germany. Credit and copyright: Wolfgang Dzieran.

The International Space Station and the Cygnus capsule on October 22, 2013, as seen from from Bad Lippspringe, Eastwestphalia, Germany. Credit and copyright: Wolfgang Dzieran.

He explains what you are seeing in the photo: “The long, light line is the track in the middle is the ISS. The second track, which runs almost parallel to the orbit of the ISS is the Cygnus supply module, and at one point becomes conspicuously bright. This bright illumination is called a flare,” Dzieran writes on his website. “At top right and bottom you can see the traces of two aircraft.

Thanks to both astrophotographers for sharing their images!

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