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Tips and Tricks for Imaging Spacecraft

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This thread has been created to assist members wanting to enter the Hubble Repair Photo competition in October.

Before you can shoot any satellite, you'll need to know when the object is passing over head.

There are two ways you can do this -

Download a free program called Orbitron

http://www.stoff.pl/

Or use the Heaven's Above website -

www.heavens-above.com

Equipment you'll need would be some kind of image capture device, Barlow lens (up to x5), and the largest aperture you can muster.

Would anyone here like to share their experience on how to shoot objects like the ISS and Space Shuttle through a telescope?

I've seen some pretty good work on these forums recently and because we will be holding a Hubble / Atlantis photo competition for October, I thought we should start this thread so that people can start practising now.

So if anyone would like to share their experience in this field please post it here.

Cheers

Ray

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Ray has asked me to post some pointers on how to capture ISS and the Space shuttle.

This is a very simple guide that will hopefully help you to capture the ISS or the Space Shuttle. You will need a Telescope with a finderscope, Webcam and a Barlow lens (optional).

Firstly, once you know when and what direction the ISS or Space Shuttle will be passing getting the coordinates from either Heavens Above or Orbitron. You will need to start with focusing the telescope with the camera connected preferably on a bright star or a planet. I find that focusing on a planet is much easier to achieve accurate focus than focusing on a star but this is up to you.

The next thing you will have to do is set the camera exposure settings correctly to capture the fast moving ISS or Space Shuttle. If you are using a webcam you will want to use a very fast shutter speed to freeze the object in the FOV. I found that a shutter speed of roughly around 1/1000sec exposure to 1/1250sec exposure is generally ideal for capturing the ISS & Space Shuttle but then again it all depends on your setup.

The final step is to capture the ISS or Space Shuttle. You will want to precisely align your finderscope with you main scope and manually track the ISS trying to keep the in the centre of the crosshairs or red dot if you use a RDF. I personally use a RDF to capture the ISS because I find it much easier to locate and keep the ISS in the FOV.

Don’t expect to get perfect results first time out because I certainly didn’t. I'm still learning a lot myself everytime I attempt to capture the ISS. Just keep practicing and I’m looking forward to seeing some ISS images from you.

Hope this will help.

Regards,

Matt :smile:

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I ran a quick search for HST pic's and found only one by Radar......are there others ?

Also I looked in Google/Yahoo images and found nothing for the HST from Earth........I think Radar has set you guys a real toughy......best of luck all.

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I ran a quick search for HST pic's and found only one by Radar......are there others ?

Also I looked in Google/Yahoo images and found nothing for the HST from Earth........I think Radar has set you guys a real toughy......best of luck all.

I certainly have put a tough challenge out there Gyro. But I know there are many up to the challenge.

A motivating factor for some maybe the imaging source camera up for grabs. :wink:

Other prizes to be announced soon.

Ray

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A motivating factor for some maybe the imaging source camera up for grabs. :wink:

Ooooo... I didn't read that bit ...

hmmmm, but still... the trade-off for me would be upsetting my optical train completely requiring all sorts of re-callibrations..... hmmmm.

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Ohhh-kaaay,

I've downloaded Satscape satellite tracking program. (cool program I might add...)

Put in my coordinates, figured out I will have a total of 42 seconds of visibility on five passes on four different days(at night)to capture this thing.(four 8sec. passes and one 10 sec. pass.)

Between now and then, I have a little over a minute and a half's worth of passes to 'practice'??? (Aug. and Sept.)

I've seen the ISS twice while out imaging. I don't think anyone has anything to worry about from me...

Here's another 'real-time' satellite tracking progran link...

http://groundstation.sourceforge.net/gpredict/

Maybe I should practice on 747's and such(they're a little slower than the ISS.)

It'd be easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle...LOL.

Beers:crazy:

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Matty P is not allowed to enter the comp!!! :biggrin:

He got me hooked on capturing the ISS also cleaned up an image of mine..tah Mat

Not sure if it helps but what I found was best for me was using a Telrad.

You can dim down the light and just line the sucker up in the centre circle and then concentrate on keeping the ISS smack in the centre.

On an EQ mount, just slacken off both clutches and away you go.

Someone mentioned practicing on jets...a lot harder! they may be a lot slower than the ISS but thier closeness makes them wizz through the FOV much quicker. You'd need a really wide FOV

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sure can! I just used a ToUcam connected to my C11 or my C8

Dob will be fine as you just manually track it.

The only problem I could see is being flexible enough to be able to keep it in view in your Telrad without snapping your neck.

Maybe limber up with a few games of twister before hand !

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Even though I'm not eligible to enter this competition I'm still going to practise shooting the ISS in the meantime so that I can photograph this historic event.

One thing that came to mind is that shooting Hubble when it's highest overhead would be better. Not just for the atmosphere, but also because she'd be much closer to you. This might be obvious to some, but not others. Hubble is quite small, so shooting her when she's high above and you'll have more chance to reveal structure, shape etc.

Ray

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These are pretty crappy pics but I'm posting them to give you an idea of the size of the shuttle.

I have never imaged the Hubble and have no idea of its size, but these were taken of the ISS during mission STS 123 using a C8 and ToUcam.

The bright spot is the Shuttle hanging off the side.

So imaging the Hubble plus the Shuttle together while a challenge is certainly do-able

and Matty P is still not allowed to enter! :wink:

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Madtuna, I'm impressed mate. Did you use a barlow for this or is that at F10?

You've inspired me to get onto heavens above and check out when the ISS is flying above my house again. I want to try and shoot this thing.

Ray

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Contest question

So does this have to be a still photo or could a video be submitted? I have tracking software so a 1 or two minute video should be theoretically possible.

John

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Hi John,

We have not included a category for video footage. Though it's still early.

At this stage we're looking for an image which can reveal detail and or shape of Hubble and Atlantis.

Are you familiar with registax? You could use your video footage to stack single frames to create a very detailed image.

Ray

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Hi from the northern hemisphere where I don't get to see the HST transit the night sky :frown:

We do frequently get the ISS though and I thought I'd provide access to two articles from Practical Astronomer about imaging the ISS.

You can read them here:

http://www.practicalastronomer.com/ISS-1.pdf

and

http://www.practicalastronomer.com/ISS-2.pdf

I hope that they are of some help.

Eddie

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Madtuna, I'm impressed mate. Did you use a barlow for this or is that at F10?

You've inspired me to get onto heavens above and check out when the ISS is flying above my house again. I want to try and shoot this thing.

Ray

Tah Ray, that was at F10 with a C8.

I now use a 4x powermate and this was off my C11... but alas no shuttle

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That last image is awesome Steve. Crisp as. How many frames per second were you shooting for that?

Ray

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