How to photograph International Space Station flyovers

Photographer Shane Murphy has published a helpful step-by-step tutorial on how to best capture ISS flyover shots like the fantastic one he took, above. Snip:

First things first, the most important thing to do is to plan well. Forward planning is vital to any night sky shot, along with a steady tripod and a warm coat. There are quite a few websites and twitter feeds that can help you with your planning. Even though it only takes about an hour and a half for the ISS to complete an orbit of the planet, you could be waiting quite some time under the night skies before the station appears above.

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  1. Nice shot!  ISS flyovers can be very exciting, once I got a frantic phone call from a friend that lives on a ranch, he was looking at the ISS without knowing what it was, and I’m one of the local go-to guys for anything related to astronomy or the skies in general.

    As for my best ISS sighting, a space shuttle mission was in the process of catching up, the those two super bright dots racing across the sky in a medium-blue pre-dawn was a sight I’ll never forget.

  2. heavens-above.com – Been using this for years, just set your location, then check for your times,

    1. Yep.

      “Even though it only takes about an hour and a half for the ISS to complete an orbit of the planet, you could be waiting quite some time under the night skies before the station appears above.”

      You could end up waiting a couple of weeks if your timing is off.  If you use Heavens Above, you’ll know in which direction to look and when, almost to the second.  There’s other cool stuff to see like the X-37B and China’s Tiangong-1 as well.

      The site also lists Iridium flares, which are popular photography targets for similar streak-of-light shots.

  3. One detail is wrong in the linked article – about the ISS not being visible late at night over northern Europe.  Near the time of the summer solstice, the ISS can swing up at a high-enough latitude that it can be illuminated by the sunlight coming over the top of the pole.  I have seen the ISS fly over the northern sky at midnight before, and sometimes you can get four or five flyovers in one night.

  4. The ISS has different orbits everyday, do yourselves a favour and download SkyView on your iphone. It lets you see where it is in its orbit and theres no guesswork when it flies overhead. :)

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