ISS Pass – July 17th

It’s the RTFM version tonight!

Good — found an online version of my Canon Digital Rebel XT (it’s like a dozen years old, still works like a champ!) and figured out how to manually set the lens aperature while simultaneously manually setting the exposure speed. (Yeah, if I had two brain cells to rub together I would have done this at least a decade ago, but we’re all stuck with the hands we’re dealt.)

So instead of being f5.6, these are all at f3.5, which lets in a lot more light! See how much more illuminated those trees are compared to last night?

(The ISS is the white streak in the lower left, headed toward the upper left. The other, more horizontal streaks are aircraft.)

Also good — I again knew exactly where the ISS was rising thanks to Heavens-Above and the compass built into my iPhone. As happened last night, if you click to get the full-sized image you can see the first image at the bottom is just barely after it clears the neighbor’s house, through a ton of coastal clouds and haze. Sweet!

Not so good — I believed that the ISS would come up and a bit to the right, like it did last night. Wrongo!! Up and to the left! Which was about to take it out of the frame, and even if that didn’t happen, into the glare from that stupid street light.

So I really had it set up for a long, long streak from the bottom to the top – time to change plans.

Going from the lower center to the upper left. I was in a hurry and at this angle it’s almost impossible to actually look through the viewfinder on the camera, so I couldn’t tell if I was aiming high enough to avoid the streetlight. (Narrator voice: “He was not.”) Still, this wasn’t bad. (Again, one second exposures at f3.5.)

And I guessed correctly on waiting until the ISS’s path hit the edge of the frame at the top! Oh, that thing going horizontally across the top? A Cessna droning off toward Camarillo.

Thanks to some pre-planning, I also had a very good idea exactly which direction the ISS would be setting, so swing the camera around and catch it going from the upper right to the lower left. The bright star just above the ISS path is Vega. A little bit better picture might have shown the ISS going right through the cross of Cygnus between Vega and the house.

Take aways today?

Better pre-planning, but need to have a better idea of the direction and inclination of rise and set. Just the compass point isn’t enough.

Much better camera set up with the lens wide open, but that also means that the focus has to be perfect. It didn’t totally suck, but it wasn’t good enough.

Looking at Heavens-Above for the rest of the week (and ignoring all of those nasty early AM passes!) there’s a so-so pass tomorrow night, a pretty good one (although not as good as tonight) on Friday, and then so-so passes on Saturday and Sunday when I’ll be otherwise occupied anyway.

See you then! One of these days I’m going to pull it all together and it’s going to be spectacular!


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