Astronaut's photo of amateur astronomers "flashing" space station

 Pettit Files 2012 03 Iss-Flash-Crop-470

On Sunday morning, a group of amateur astronomers in San Antonio "flashed" the International Space Station with a blue laser and spotlight (sorry to disappoint) as it passed overhead. Astronaut Don Pettit snapped the photo above from the window of the ISS. This was way, way more complicated to achieve than you might think. From Pettit's post at Air & Space:

This took a number of engineering calculations. Projected beam diameters (assuming the propagation of a Gaussian wave for the laser) and intensity at the target had to be calculated. Tracking space station’s path as it streaked across the sky was another challenge. I used email to communicate with Robert Reeves, one of the association’s members. Considering that it takes a day, maybe more, for a simple exchange of messages (on space station we receive email drops two to three times a day), the whole event took weeks to plan.

"A Flashing Success"

"Earth Photography: It’s Harder Than It Looks"


  1. Oh, it’s cool NOW, wait a few more years, and this will become a federal crime like flashing airplanes.  :)

  2. Should have sent morse code.

    -. .- … .-   — ..- –   — ..-.   — — -. . -.–   … – — .–.   -.– — ..-   .- .-. .   – — – .- .-.. .-.. -.–   ..-. ..- -.-. -.- . -..   … – — .–.

  3. Don Pettit was then blinded, and as a result crashed the space station.  There were no survivors.

  4. OK, it may just be my overactive gutter-minded imagination… but when I read the headline about “flashing” the space station, and looked at the photo without reading the article first… I didn’t actually notice the blue dot right away. And instead, my mind wandered and kind of saw a vague “goat-se” style image created in the lights. LOL Am I the only one that sees this?!  Its kind of on angle, with one hand created on the left (the lines of lights look like outlines of fingers) and the same on the right side of the off-centered square, which is, the arse? OK its probably just me….  (shuffles off embarrassed) LOL

      1. LOL I know, but this is what I mean LOL (I’ve outlined what my gutter-brained imagination first thought it saw)

  5. Definite “don’t try this at home, kids”. If the beam’s bright enough to see from space, it’s bright enough to at least distract pilots. In most areas, laws say that outdoor use of lasers above the most trivial power levels  requires beam stops or a permit.

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