I discovered through someone on the Cloudy Nights Forum an Android app called ISS Detector. It’s free and it is AWESOME. It tells you everything you need to know about when and how to view the space station if it is in visual range of your location. I can’t recommend it enough!
When it told me last week that today the space station would sail over my location at nearly 65* high and magnitude -3.0 ( I think Jupiter is at -2.9) I knew that if the clouds cooperated, I’d be outside in the driveway with my Canon 1000d, my new fish-eye lens and the tripod.
According to ISS Detector, the station would arrive on the scene to the WNW, directly over some nice pine trees that line my property on the west. I set up with them in the foreground and waited. While waiting, I spotted another satellite going straight overhead from south to north (turns out it was the rocket booster stage of a communications satellite according to Heavens Above) and another going from SW to NE (just a random CommSat). Then the main event started.
I took one shot of about a second to show how bright the ISS is at ISO 800. The lens was set at 25mm f4. If you look at the “star trail” below, the lowest point of the trail has a gap, then a much brighter segment. That bright spot is the short picture. Then I took an 86 second exposure, same settings and got the long bright trail.
Because this is only the first time I’ve successfully captured the ISS in flight, I was nervous if I had done it right. I inadvertently had the camera reduce the noise internally for the long exposure, which caused me to loose another 86 in processing time. By then, the station had arced overhead and was gliding silently towards Venus in the east.
I edited the images in Photoshop Elements and combined the two shots to make one, then tweaked the levels and brightness, contrast, etc., the usual suspects, to make it look pleasing and close to what I saw with my eyes.
Next time, I won’t be so nervous and will set it up to record the entire thing. I will point the fish-eye lens higher up and let ‘er rip. I think I only have to wait a week or so!
The stars just to the left of the space station at the peak of it’s travel is just bottom 2/3 of Cassiopea’s “W”.