Amateur astronomer Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands has been taking amazing close-up shots of the International Space Station and other orbiting spacecraft for years, but this one might be my favorite since I’m a little partial to the new Cupola on the ISS. Here, you can see the Cupola, including details of the seven windows! Click the image to see a larger version on Ralf’s website.
Ralf uses a 10 inch Newtonian telescope with a videocam eyepiece, and manually tracks the ISS and other objects across the sky. He takes most of his images in color to obtain the maximum possible information of the objects. Of course, he has to deal with atmospheric turbulance, so his best shots occur when the lighting angle, viewing angle, seeing, distance and other factors all converge together to enable a great shot like this one.
Check out Ralf’s website where you can see his other images, including this one of ISS and Dexter, the special purpose manipulator, or this one of space shuttle Discovery on the STS-131 mission. He also captured astronaut Joe Acaba on an EVA outside the ISS in March of 2009, which was featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day.
You can also follow Ralf on Twitter to see his latest images.