Highlands Astro-Shack

The International Space Station and Space Shuttle are the brightest objects in the sky, not including the moon and sun. It is easily seen crossing the sky a couple times a day either after sunset or before sunrise. Here in the Northwest in the short nights of summer, it can even be seen well into the night after sunset. Taking images of the station as it flies over is surprisingly easy (after getting a little practice and blowing a few passes!). All it takes is a prediction of where and when it comes over, a telescope, a simple webcam and a computer.

International Space Station / Space Shuttle Photographs
(Click the thumbnail image to see full photos with descriptions)
ISS August 8, 2002
One of my
early attempts
ISS with Atlantis STS-112 - October 13,2003
With Atlantis
Mission STS-112
STS-112 again the next night - October 14, 2003
the next night
ISS on July 3, 2005. The night of comet Temple-1 and Deep Impact.
ISS 7/3/2005
no shuttle
ISS July20....still alone with no shuttle.
July 20, 2004
still no shuttle.
ISS July 1, 2005 - No launch today.
ISS 7/1/2006
NO STS-115 launch today
ISS April 20, 2007.  With new solar panels.
ISS April 20, 2007.
With new solar panels.
ISS and Atlantis STS-117.  With new solar panels.
ISS/Atlantis June 18, 2007.
I was at this launch!
Iss August 15, 2007
August 15, 2007
STS-118 Endeavour
Iss July 21, 2008
July 21, 2008
Expedition 17
ISS Jan23, 2009

July 21, 2008
Through hazy sky. Expedition 18

ISS April 20, 2007.  With new solar panels.
Click image for full size view

This photo (one of my best!) was taken by request as a gift to another
local space collector friend who had an item flown on board the ISS.
Dave Ginsberg's "Spaceship Earth" artwork was on board the ISS when
this was taken - just a few hours before returning to Earth with Charles
Simonyi on April 21st. The artwork was launched on September 18 with the
first female "space tourist" Anousheh Ansari, and returned several hours
after this photo was taken.
The Soyuz can be seen docked at the uppper right of the station.
To read the full story behind Dave's flown artwork click on the
"Spaceship Earth" graphic below.

Copyright 2000 - 2007 Dave Ginsberg.

Published ISS images
I've had some of my images published on some well known space web sites:

International Space Station / Space Shuttle Videos

ISS and Atlantis STS-117. On June 18. I attended this launch in person at Kennedy Space Center, so this was great to see the shuttle again flying over my house!

July 1, 2006: STS-115 (Atlantis) was supposed to be here, but delayed by tropical storm and fuel cell problems.
Short animated video of the October 13/14 pass of the ISS with Atlantis STS-112 visiting. This was the mission that the starboard (S1) truss was installed - easily seen on the side of the station in the images.

How to do this yourself: Imaging the ISS and shuttle is actually fairly simple. Required gear and information:
  • Information on time and position of the pass over your location - Heavens Above web site.
  • Telescope - nothing fancy needed. You don't need to use the "GoTo" feature.
  • Simple webcam - I prefer the Philips Vesta Pro or ToUCam
  • Computer - something fast enough to take video from the webcam.
  • Preparation and patience - your first tries may not work!
  • AVI2BMP Software for later image separation from the .avi file.
Once you have all the basic gear, set it up before the spacecraft come over. Give yourself enough time to set up and prepare the computer and telescope. Rushing this will just end up with nothing, a blurry image, or maybe even forget to start the computer recording! (I've done this many times)
  1. On camera software - Frames per Second: 10 - Brightness: 50% - Gain: 40% (may vary with aperture)
  2. Put mouse pointer on the start button of your recording software. Get ready!
  3. When station shows up on horizon, wait until it's about 30+ degrees high.
  4. Start recording.
  5. Hand-guide the scope keeping the bright station in the middle of the Telrad (preferred) circle.
  6. When station is overhead, knees and back must be bent in most painful position possible for best image!
  7. Stop recording when station is gone, low, behind tree or house.
  8. Play the resulting .avi video and see if station flashes through frames now and then.
  9. Separate good images using AVI2BMP software.
  10. Done! You've captured a spacecraft.