Stunning Look at ISS and Docked Disovery — From the Ground!

ISS with shuttle Discovery docked on April 8, 2010. Credit: Ted Judah


This has to be one of the clearest close-up shots of the International Space Station ever taken from the ground! Plus it has the added bonus of having space shuttle Discovery docked to the station. Ted Judah, who lives in northern California captured this image — one of 150 he took during the an ISS pass over his observatory during the recent STS-131 mission. Here’s Ted’s description:

The ISS came into the morning light over the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of northern California and was tracking north-east as it passed directly over my sea-level observatory. I was lucky there was no fog. I have a Canon 30D SLR and Celestron 11″ Schmidt-Cassagrain on an equatorial mount. I track manually and use my precisely-aligned finderscope to aim – when the ISS is in the crosshairs I shoot like crazy. Of the 150 shots I took, less than half have the ISS in frame.

Ted told me he was “stoked” to get such a clear image. Who wouldn’t be?? Nice work, Ted!

Ted is not new to trying to capture the ISS. He won one of “Phil’s Picks” (Bad Astronomer Phil Plait) in Celestron’s “Capture the Universe” contest with another image of the ISS.

Also, Ted has contributed a couple of podcasts to 365 Days of Astronomy, and one of my all-time favorite podcasts is Ted’s description of how he and his family built an observatory out on his father-in-law’s farm.

Here’s another shot Ted took during the same pass:

The ISS and shuttle Discovery during the STS-131 mission. Credit: Ted Judah

Thanks Ted, for sharing your wonderful images!

Awesome Image of ISS Transiting Moon

ISS transit of the Moon. Image Credit: Photo courtesy of Fernando Echeverria

The NASA Image of the Day is a webpage that everyone should visit everyday, as there are always great images of our explorations of space and Earth. But this one has a wow factor that is off the charts. It was taken just minutes before space shuttle Discovery launched this past Monday on April 5, 2010, as the International Space Station flew across the face of the moon over Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I know people who were there who thought it was an poignant event, but here photographer Fernando Echeverria captures the event at just the right milimoment as the ISS reached the dark area on the Moon. Amazing, and such incredible detail, too! Click the image or this link to go to the NASA Image of the Day site where you can find larger versions — suitable for framing or desktops!

Amazing Pic: ISS Flys Through Aurora

"Fly through Aurora at 28,000kmh. Happy 1,000 tweets :-)" Tweeted astronaut Soich Noguchi.


What an amazing pic of the International Space Station “flying through” an aurora at orbital speeds of 28,000 kmh (17,500 mph)! Super-space-photographer and Tweeter Soichi Noguchi captured this spectacular image earlier today, taking advantage of some rare solar activity. “Fly through Aurora at 28,000kmh. Happy 1,000 tweets” Noguichi wrote on Twitter. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center sent out a notice early this morning saying : “A geomagnetic storm began at 05:55 AM EST Monday, April 5, 2010. Space weather storm levels reached Strong (G3) levels on the Geomagnetic Storms Space Weather Scale.”

And indeed, that solar activity created a picturesque backdrop to the ISS today! Wow!

Noguchi, a.k.a. Astro_Soichi on Twitter is setting a new standard for Twittering and Twitpics from space — and photography, too. He and his Expedition 22 crewmates recently broke the record for the amount of images taken by an ISS crew. They snapped over 100,000 images of space and Earth during their accumulated six-month Expedition, bringing the number of pictures taken from the space station to a grand total of almost 639,000 images. With the new crew arriving at the ISS this past weekend, Expedition 23 is now officially underway.

Check out more of Astro_Soichi’s Twitter pictures on his TwitPic page.
. And here are more amazing space pictures.

Sources: Twitter, NOAA, Yahoo News

Horsehead Nebula

Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead nebula is a dark nebula that looks like a horse’s head! It is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex, and has the more correct, if boring, name Barnard 33 (being object number 33 in a catalog of dark nebulae, by Barnard).

It is about 1500 light-years away, and is itself dark because of the dust of which it’s made (it’s also made up of gas, in fact it’s mostly gas, but the gas is essentially transparent). What makes it so obvious is the diffuse glow from behind it; the glow is red – due to the Balmer Hα line, a prominent atomic transition in hydrogen – and is powered by the UV light from the nearby star, Sigma Orionis (which is actually a five-star system), which ionizes the hydrogen gas in this part of the Orion Complex.

The first record of its shape is from 1888, by Williamina Fleming, who noticed it on a photographic plate taken at the Harvard College Observatory (Fleming made significant contributions to astronomy, including cataloguing many of the stars in the famous Henry Draper Catalogue). The Horsehead nebula is a favorite of amateur astronomers, especially astrophotographers (it’s quite difficult to spot visually).

The Horsehead nebula is similar to the Pillars of Creation (in M16), though perhaps not as dense; one day it too will be eroded by the intense UV from the young stars in its vicinity, and from new-born stars formed within it (the bright area at the top left is light from just such a star).

In 2001, the Hubble Space Telescope Institute asked the public to vote for an astronomical target for the Hubble Space Telescope to observe, a sort of Universe Idol contest … the Horsehead nebula was the clear winner! Hands up all of you who have, or have had, the Hubble’s image of the Horsehead as your wallpaper, or perhaps the VLT one

Universe Today has, among its stories, some good background on the Horsehead; for example Dark Knight Ahead – B33 by Gordon Haynes, Astrophoto: The Horsehead Nebula by Filippo Ciferri, and What’s Up This Week – Jan 3 – Jan 9, 2005.

The Astronomy Cast episode Nebulae explains the role of dark nebulae, such as the Horsehead, in starbirth; well worth a listen.

Sources: NASA APOD, Wikipedia

Giga Galaxy Zoom Trilogy Now Complete

The third image of ESO’s GigaGalaxy Zoom project is an amazing vista of the Lagoon Nebula taken with the 67-million-pixel Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The image covers more than one and a half square degree— an area eight times larger than that of the Full Moon — with a total of about 370 million pixels. It is based on images acquired using three different broadband filters (B, V, R) and one narrow-band filter (H-alpha). Credit: ESO

“Now the circle is complete. When I left you, I was but the learner, and now…” Oh, sorry, different triology. The third image of ESO’s GigaGalaxy Zoom project has just been released online, completing this eye-opening dive into a galaxy not so far away; our own Milky Way. This third installment provides another breathtaking vista of an astronomical object, this time a 370-million-pixel view of the Lagoon Nebula with the quality and depth needed by professional astronomers in their quest to understand our Universe.

The newly released image extends across a field of view of more than one and a half square degree — an area eight times larger than that of the full Moon — and was obtained with the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. This 67-million-pixel camera has already created several of ESO’s iconic pictures.

The intriguing object depicted here — the Lagoon Nebula — is located four to five thousand light-years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer). The nebula is a giant interstellar cloud, 100 light-years across, where stars are forming. The scattered dark patches seen all over the nebula are huge clouds of gas and dust that are collapsing under their own weight and which will soon give birth to clusters of young, glowing stars.

The three huge images featured in the GigaGalaxy Zoom projec, launched by ESO as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), reveals the full sky as it appears with the unaided eye from one of the darkest deserts on Earth, then zooms in on a rich region of the Milky Way using an amateur telescope, and finally uses the power of a professional telescope to reveal the details of a famous nebula. In this way, the project links the sky we can all see with the deep, “hidden” cosmos that astronomers study on a daily basis. The wonderful quality of the images is a testament to the splendor of the night sky at ESO’s sites in Chile, which are the most productive astronomical observatories in the world.

Click here for the Giga Galaxy Zoom site and start zooming in on our home galaxy!

Battlestar Photoshopica: Otto Travels to Pluto

Otto the Dachshund traveling through the Hubble Deep Field. Created by Ralph Petrozello

Our “Astro Art” feature needs a catchier name, and frankly we need more people to read this feature or it will be toast. So here’s the new name: Battlestar Photoshopica, suggested by UT reader Dave Finton. And spread the word about these very cool posts which showcase our readers’ prowess with digital image editing software. Here’s this week’s edition, which is probably the cutest image we’ve ever received. This is Otto the Dachshund, created by Ralph Petrozello. Otto is on his way to Pluto. Really. This image was chosen by The Planetary Society to be part of the New Horizons Digital Time Capsule, on board the New Horizons spacecraft on its way to Pluto. The time capsule consists of photographs of things in 2006 that people expect will be transformed by 2015, when the spacecraft arrives at Pluto. Only fifty photos were selected, and this is one of them.

Ralph told us more about this image:

“I took a photo of my Dachshund, Otto, reflected in a car’s rear view mirror while he was looking out the window with his sun glasses on. (…he really wore them,) Ralph said. “I replaced the background of the photo with the Hubble Deep Field image, and the reflection in his sun glasses so it appeared as though he was traveling through space towards Pluto, looking out towards the “Andromeda Galaxy” going by. The photo also captured the words on the mirror, “Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear”…which Otto was to me.”

“Otto is gone now, …but I know his memory will live on.”

Ralph is a member of the I forgot to mention that I am also a member of the San Diego Astronomy Association.

For more info on the New Horizons Digital Time Capsule, see the Planetary Society’s website.

Reaching Near Space For Less Than $150

Earth from 93,000 feet. Long Island in the background. Credit: The 1337Arts Group

A group of MIT students have launched a low-budget satellite to near space, taking images of the curvature of Earth and the blackness of space. Their approach was to use low tech, off the shelf equipment, which included a Styrofoam beer cooler, a camera from eBay, open source software and an inexpensive helium balloon as the launch vehicle in order to do their complete mission launch for less than $150. Total cost? $148. The experience? Priceless, including getting interviewed on CNN and Fox News about their achievement. The best news for the rest of us? They’ll soon be sharing an illustrated step-by-step guide on how to launch your own low-budget satellite.

The team, led by Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh had the goal of seeing Earth from space, but didn’t have a lot of money to do it. They knew they’d have to gather all the materials for less than $150.
Their satellite was a huge success. It reached 93,000 feet (calculated from the linear ascent rate at the beginning of the launch), took several images of Earth from space (see their gallery here) and was retrieved using an inexpensive GPS system.

They say the time lapse video above isn’t all that great because the cooler wasn’t stabilized. But the images are incredible.

Many people have launched balloons (see some of our previous articles, here and here) but this is the lowest price to space anyone has ever accomplished. The students say they hope to be an inspiration to others.

The balloon falling back to Earth after bursting.  Credit:  1337arts team.
The balloon falling back to Earth after bursting. Credit: 1337arts team.

Lee and Yeh caution about making sure future explorers contact the FAA about launching a balloon, and to launch from a safe place so the balloon and equipment doesn’t land in a highly populated area.

Next, they want to do it again, but add a rocket to the balloon to launch their payload even higher.

Check out their website for more info and the great images.

Stunning Image of ISS and Endeavour Transitting Sun

The ISS and Endeavour transitting the sun. Credit: Thierry Legault

Wow! Take a look at this image captured by award-winning French astrophotographer Thierry Legault. The visible detail of the shuttle and parts of the International Space Stations is absolutely amazing! If you remember, Legault also took images of space shuttle Atlantis and the Hubble Space Telescope transiting the sun back in May during the HST servicing mission.

Legault is an engineer who lives near Paris. He started his digital imaging in 1994, and currently uses a SBIG STL-11000M CCD camera with AO-L system that is equipped with large and narrow band filters. He also uses a reflex Canon 5D, webcams from Philips as well as Astrovid video cameras.

He has written two books: “The New Atlas of the Moon” with Serge Brunier (Firefly) and “Astrophotographie” (Eyrolles), and is featured in a new book by Robert Gendler, “Capturing the Stars: Astrophotography by the Masters.”

Visit Thierry’s website for more great images!

Source: OnOrbit