Catching a glimpse of the International Space Station

ISS 5-27-2016

May 27, 2016
6:51 AM

The International Space Station was set to fly directly overhead this morning, from NW to SE, at 5:34 AM. So when my alarm went off at 5:00 AM, I threw my clothes on and I ran outside to set up my gear.

I’d already done my measurements last night, so I knew where to set up, where to look and what the trajectory would be, that way I wouldn’t be fumbling around in a panic this morning, in the dark, trying to get set up while the clock counts down. Planning ahead. Smart, right?

Well, first, the newspaper dude comes flying down the street, blasting Nirvana, with his brights on, both bewildering and blinding me in the process. That caused me to drop the screw holding in the diagonal mirror and the eyepiece, which meant the weight of my iPhone and its mount kept making it slide and flop down.

So I had to get down in the wet, dewy grass with my flashlight, feeling around for it for about five minutes until I finally found it. So I get that put back together.

That left me a little discombobulated, but I got everything set up again, regained my composure and settled into my chair, thinking I’m ready to go.

I checked my watch to see that it was 5:32 AM. The ISS would be passing over very soon. It was only going to be in the sky for a maximum of six minutes, however, that includes the time it’s hidden by the treeline both in front of and behind me.

Also, since it would be going directly over my head at the 90° position, I can’t very well crane my neck and position my telescope to look directly above, and I can’t move my gear quick enough to spot it in my scope as it moves behind me.

I say this all to make the point that I’ve really only got a minute, maybe two, to find this quick-moving object, focus my scope and my camera, and snap a couple photos.

Alright, well, I know where it’s coming into view, so I’m ready, right?


It was just as the ISS came over the treeline that the tripod plate, which holds the telescope down, decided to come loose. To tighten it, you have to take out the plate, which can be an ordeal. Ain’t nobody got time for that right now, so I’ve gotta wing it.

With my left hand, I’m controlling the Y axis of the tripod so I can easily track the ISS across the sky. With my right, I’m trying to keep the scope from flopping around, while also clicking my camera remote to snap the photos.

I tell this long story so you’ll understand why I captured such a sad photo. Sigh. 😦

Maybe next time, haha.

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