Moon station

By Phil Plait | February 6, 2009 2:33 pm
The Moon and the ISS

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day has this fantastic shot of the space station passing between us and the Moon. It has a funny perspective; remember, the Moon is roughly 1000 times farther away than the station is! This is a tiny version of a much larger image; click it to see the very cool full-sized shot.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (36)

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  1. What You Can Get Away With » All alone in the night | February 6, 2009
  1. Brian Schlosser, Lurker

    Totally amazing! I get goosebumps looking at that kind of thing… hopefully before I die I will get to see lights on the moon…

  2. Mchl

    What’s amazing for me is the explanation at APOD page:
    “The space station’s transit lasted 0.49 seconds. ”

    This means, someone in advance hes set up the scope to take a picture at this very exact moment. Perhaps the astronomer was even so precise, so that the station was captured against M.Serenitas? I can very well imagine that and be amazed even further.

    Can Flat Earth Society members explain how such pictures are possible S.V.P.? (don’t bother… I know you’re gonna say it’s faked)

  3. Sili

    What about a link to the picture of the ISS silluetted against the Sun? Pretty sure it musta been here I saw that.

  4. I love how it messes with perspective like that! :)

  5. JillSwift

    That’s no moon! That’s a … oh, wait. It’s both.

  6. @JillSwift: Oh lovely. We just barely avoided the planet being crushed by LHC black holes, and now this happens! I hope they at least wait until Monday to blow us up.

  7. holastefan

    @JillSwift: “That’s no moon! That’s a … oh, wait. It’s both.”

    That…was…AWESOME!!! I’m still laughing

  8. Togusa

    Wow… with the transit lasting 0.49 seconds, it literally wasa “blink and you’ll miss it” moment. Kudos to the photographer.

  9. markm

    Commander Koenig, is that you?

  10. Dennis Collins

    “Wow… with the transit lasting 0.49 seconds, it literally wasa “blink and you’ll miss it” moment.”

    Probably one frame taken from a video sequence.

  11. Chris

    Hey Phil you may be interested in this story from my home state…

    Crazy anti-vaxers cause real damage.

  12. Lauren

    That’s no moon, that’s a space station!

    (Sorry. I just can’t help myself.)

  13. This is a great image.

  14. Lauren

    Oh, crap. I’m late to that humor party. Blast!

  15. Paul

    Hey, the ISS is mooning us!

  16. Martian Bob
  17. Martian Bob

    (The above post is sarcasm.)

  18. @ Jillswift:

    That’s just…just…oh, dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Haw haw!

    “Wow… with the transit lasting 0.49 seconds, it literally was a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment.”

    However, if you squint really hard you can see Barbara Bain looking pensively out the window.

  19. > What about a link to the picture of the ISS silluetted against the Sun?

    ISS *AND* Atlantis:

    ISS and VENUS transit:

  20. Hey Phil, when you embiggen that image, and see the ISS in that odd perspective, it looks like this:

  21. Grammar Nazi

    The space station’s transit lasted 0.49 seconds. ”

    Thatshould be second Singular.

    Or less than half a second (0.49 sec.) & successfully photographed.

    That’s very impressive indeed. :-)

  22. Correction and additional note:

    1) space was intended between ‘That’ & ‘should’ ie. That should be second. Singular.

    2) The quote there was from the info in the linked large photo – NOT Phil Plait’s error.

    3) Darn! I’ve got my full stop upside down again! 😉

    Apollodorus : “O Socrates how it grieves me to see you die so undeservedly.”
    Socrates : “My dear Apollodorus, would you rather see me die deservedly?”

    The difference a word or two makes :

    Continuity: Subtitling and translation can also lead to weird mistakes. Han Solo says (twice in the special edition) that he dumped his cargo because “Even I get boarded sometimes”, and in Dutch cinema’s the subtitles read as if he said “Even I get bored sometimes”.

    From ‘Star Wars’ movie mistakes site


    We apologise for the error in the last edition in which we stated that Mr Fred Nicolme is a defective of the police force. This was a typographical error. We meant, of course, that Mr Nicolme is a detective in the police farce.
    – ‘Derby Community newspaper’ (Other info. unavailable.)


    Would the congregation please note that the bowl at the back of the Church labelled ‘For the sick’ is for monetary donations only.’
    – Apparently a real church sign.

    The Implications of Punctuation:

    A teacher and a school inspector were feuding over something and the teacher, being cheeky, wrote on the chalkboard the following line:

    The teacher said “the Inspector is a fool.”

    The inspector saw this, smiled and quickly changed the punctuation, quotes marks and commas to read:

    ‘The teacher’, said the Inspector,’ is a fool.’

    So commas misplaced, word order reversed
    Can make writer object
    Shout, swear & curse!


    ‘Needless to say’,
    It need not be said
    But so many needlessly say it
    Is this because its not ‘needless to say‘
    And that’s why we so often say it?
    For if its not needless
    Then needs must we say
    But if not we needn’t e’er say it! 😉

  23. NB. The Star Wars mistakes site mentioned above is linked to my name here -click it to visit.

    Never let it be said that grammarians are a humourless lot. 😉

  24. Bein'Silly

    @JillSwift & @ holastefan & Lauren & everyone lese who said :

    “That’s no moon! That’s a … oh, wait. It’s both.” 😉

    Classic! ROTFLMAO! 😀

  25. Bein'Silly

    Mind you, while that picture was neat – & if I recall right there was another older one (from Phil’s ‘Best of’ one year?) with the ISS transiting (if that’s the right word?) the Sun I’m no big fan of “Horton” the ISS.

    Try as I might, I just can’t get excited about or inspired by a larger version of Skylab / Mir / the Salyut’s boldly going .. nowhere but round in near earth orbital circles. :-(

    The Moon now – well we should be there with a proper Lunar colony and prolonged lunar exploration – and on Mars and we should keep going new places.

    The ISS just doesn’t seem to achieve much other than taking money and effort away from other more exciting things that we could be doing instead.

    Can anyone honestly tell me the ISS (so dull they can’t even be bothered giving it a decent name) has ever done something to give them the old shiver down the spine, that tingly “Oh wow!” sensation that comes with a shuttle launch or Apollo mission or seeing the first pictures of some new planet seen for the first time?

    Am I the only one thinking it should just be scrapped already? Or sold to the Chinese and Iranians 😉

    … Or fitted with its own propulsion or I dunno .. Something???

    If we were building an honest-to-whatever O’Neil colony or something that might be worthwhile but this ISS thing just doesn’t have y’know that “right stuff.” :-(

  26. @Bein’Silly: It does take some might nice pictures of hurricanes.

  27. kuhnigget

    @ sirsilliness:

    (so dull they can’t even be bothered giving it a decent name)

    Wasn’t the boring thing christened “Freedom” by some politico? Maybe even His Royal Reaganess? I kenna rememba.

    L-5 in ’95. Er…’25?

  28. Gary Ansorge

    Looking at the really embiggened pic, the first thing that popped into my head was ” Touchdown, Houston. The ISS has landed,,
    ,one small step for a man. One giant investment in eternity.”

    If only it were so,,,

    GAry 7

  29. @kuhnigget:
    When the Great Ronald proposed the idea, he did call it “Freedom”. However, that was when it was strictly a NASA project. When it morphed into what we have now, with international partners, everyone thought it was a much better idea to call it “ISS”.

    However, the first commander did receive the go-ahead to use the radio call sign “Alpha” withing hours of entering the station. The logs of that Expedition One can be found on the ISS home-page. That is the only Expedition where the Commander kept a daily log, and I do not know if the radio call sign “Alpha” still stands.

  30. Elmar_M

    This is a really cool picture! Thanks for posting it Phil!

  31. Bein'Silly

    @ drksky: It does take some might nice pictures of hurricanes.

    Meh. Numerous weather sats and astronauts have been doin’ that for ages.

    @ kuhnigget: Wasn’t the boring thing christened “Freedom” by some politico? Maybe even His Royal Reaganess? I kenna rememba. L-5 in ‘95. Er…’25?

    Well I was going answer that but looks like Michael L has done it for me already -THX! :-)

    So yeah, I gather it was going to be called “freedom” or “alpha” or whatever but nobody could be bothered with it. Politics maybe? Whatever, we’re stuck with plain dull ISS. :-(

    Now I’m sure the ISS team feel they’re doin’ something worthwhile but .. sheesh .. its just goin’ nowhere & NOT achieving anything that is all new or inspiring or very exciting. :-(

    We need to be moving forward & going further the ISS doesn’t cut it.
    Scrap it & put the money towards return to Moon or folks on Mars I say.
    If the international partners scream, tell
    them to take it over & do it instead. We’ve got shinier better things to do & places to go! 😉

  32. Gary Ansorge

    So, Silly, I guess you missed the point about Baby Steps???

    The ISS was supposed to be a place where we could do micro-gravity construction/manufacturing,ie, find out what it takes to do that, what kind of new products we could create in such an environment and to possibly act as a staging area for further expansion into space.

    It is NOT useless!!!(cool! A functional double negative,,,)

    Granted, it COULD have been built of expended shuttle main tanks and would have cost a bare fraction as much, but the USA always seems to have to have the coolest, shiniest new toys of anyone. I expect we learned a lot about trying to build large structures in a micro-G environment. Funding constraints seem to have seriously impeded the new product development, but hey, we’re really just getting started here.

    Industry is constrained in it’s investments to reasonable/timely returns, thus for long term planning and development, we require governmental investment(since governments have no need to make a profit). On the down side, we have developed a sound bite oriented government, in which, if a rationale can’t be reduced to 30 seconds of explanation, it don’t get funded,,,I sometimes think the entire species is developing ADD,,,Then I remember China,,,

    If your exploratory craft encounters an unexpected problem, where would you rather be? Half way to Mars or 250 miles from home?
    Give the ISS 25 more years and I expect you’ll then be able to see how good that investment really is. In space, any investment which expects a return in less than a couple of generations is just unreasonable. Developing space resources isn’t like taking a shovel to a coal seam in Appalachia. We need to be thinking really long term(like, THOUSANDS of years, rather then the next quarterly review.)

    GAry 7

  33. @Bein’Silly :

    ” Am I the only one thinking it [the International Space Station] should just be scrapped already? Or sold to the Chinese and Iranians. … Or fitted with its own propulsion or I dunno .. Something???”

    I like the “fit it with its own propulsion” idea – I gather the ISS can already move a little and change its orbit to dodge space junk etc ..

    Now if we can boost its orbit gradually – shift it first to one of the Lagrange points then maybe further into a quasi-moon horseshoe / ‘trojan’ style solar-earthly orbit ..

    Then mission by mission take it further out as we get more confidant with it … Could we eventually transform the ISS into a real travelling spacecraft? One that can journey to visit oh, say :

    1. The Moon again (with however many people the completed ISS contains – a fe more than two!)

    2. Asteroid Apophis & other Near Earth Asteroids,

    3.Comet Wild-2 – where it could land a few people to check out the cometary crater we made with ‘Deep Impact’ & perhaps even Mars and beyond?

    Is that at all plausible or just my wild flight of fancy?

    Does that inspire anyone?

    Are we maybe expecting a bit too much toos oon & not being grateful or appreciative enough of the truly remarkable & impressive things NASA and even the ISS (& yes I’ll admit it doesn’t really tingle my spine much at present either) have achieved?

    So I’d say no, don’t scrap the ISS – but, yes, lets do something really imaginative and clever and inspiring and novel with it for sure!

    Oh & I agree it could use a proper name rather than an acronymn – might I suggest ‘Babylon-One’? 😉

    Or, more seriously, the international space station ‘Friendship’ or ‘Partnership’ or ‘Unity maybe? :-)

    If nothing else, I can see the ISS playing a useful diplomatic and co-operative peace building, bridge building role – and it may enable us to learn from – & teach others – things that help everybody in the long run.

    I would like to see us invite the Russians, Chinese and yes, even the Iranians up there to see our Earth and ourselves in a different light from a literally higher ground perspective! :-)

  34. Voyager-phone-home

    @ Gary Ansorge:
    “If your exploratory craft encounters an unexpected problem, where would you rather be? Half way to Mars or 250 miles from home?”

    How about at home teleoperating your robot spaceprobe & able to come up with a handy fix for it’s problems (that are non-fatal if sometimes disappointing) in comfort? Like happened with the software fixes for the Mars rovers & Galileo’s antennae issue and Voyager II and so forth. That’s what I’d prefer.


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