Ralf Vandebergh’s detail of an image he took on March 21, 2009 showing astronauts working outside the ISS. Credit: Ralf Vandebergh
Remember when it was a big deal when amateur astronomers starting imaging the International Space Station as seen from Earth, showing individual modules and other parts of the space station? One of the most proficient astrophotographers in that department has now just upped the game: Ralf Vandebergh has captured images of astronauts working outside the ISS during an EVA. Vandebergh, who lives in The Netherlands, used his 10-inch Newtonian backyard telescope to capture an image of STS-119 astronauts Joe Acaba and Steve Swanson working outside the ISS to install equipment on one of the trusses during the second EVA of the mission on March 21, 2009. Vandebergh told me he has been trying to image astronauts working outside the ISS since 2007, but hasn’t been successful until now. “In all opportunities I had until now, the astronauts were not on a visible part of the station,” he said “or they were in shadow or the pass or the seeing was simply not favourable.”
Below, enjoy the video Vandebergh created about his extreme zoom-in handiwork, and his explanation of how he was able to take the images.
“It was great luck they were working on the Earth-facing side of the port 3 truss on this spacewalk,” Vandebergh said. “Why? This truss is a reasonable open structure, which means it appears a little bit transparent as seen from the Earth with the black space as a background. This makes this particular truss (and the Starboard 3 truss on the other side) look considerably darker then the other trusses in the vicinity.
When a high reflective white suited spacewalker works in front of this truss, there is a very good
chance you receive light from it on your CCD. By following very precisely the live station camera’s–
and helmet cam recordings on NASA TV, I knew exactly were to expect them on the image.”