There have been some really great ISS passes over Los Angeles recently, but we’ve usually been clouded out. The one time it was clear I saw a fantastic pass, horizon to horizon – but I messed up the camera settings and got garbage.
Tonight the ISS was rising from a spot where I could easily see it from the back yard, and rising straight up instead of off at an angle. The back yard is MUCH darker than the front, with big areas where all of the street lights in the front are hidden behind the house and garage. So all I had to do was not screw up the camera settings!
One second exposures (with a couple of gaps where I lost my rhythm) combined into a single image with StarStax software. You can see how it appeared orange as it came up, the light being filtered sideways through many hundreds of miles of atmosphere, then gradually getting brighter and whiter. The yellowish dot in the far lower right corner is a light on a transformer at the top of a power pole across the street. If you turn up the contrast and flip to view it as a photographic negative:
Now you can clearly see the cypress trees along the driveway on the left and the neighbor’s hedge along the fence at the bottom. It does make me wish I had aimed the camera just a little bit higher and then kept taking pictures just a little bit longer.
But I thought that the ISS had already passed out of the field of view. So I reset the tripod because I wanted to catch the end of the pass. As you can see from the Heavens-Above diagram, just about the time the ISS got to the zenith, 89° overhead, it “vanished,” passing into the Earth’s shadow.
I just caught the last few seconds as it faded. Blue, dimming rapidly to red and then dark. That happens when you’re travelling at 17,150 miles per hour. Sixteen times a day, along with sixteen magnificent sunrises a day.
Another good pass tomorrow, and another on Thursday. Let’s hope for clear skies!