Space Station crosses the dark side of Moon!

By Phil Plait | April 7, 2010 2:00 pm

NASA’s Image of the Day posted a fantastic shot: the International Space Station crossing the face of the Moon:


Wow! You can just make out the shape of the ISS. And don’t let the relative sizes fool you: the Moon is about a thousand times farther away than the space station. It’s a wee bit bigger.

And don’t forget that right now Discovery is docked to ISS. Check for them in your night sky!

Image credit: Fernando Echeverria, NASA


Comments (36)

Links to this Post

  1. Orbital debris, the ISS, moon and sun « Open Parachute | April 8, 2010
  1. Are you sure that’s the ISS? Looks like a TIE Fighter to me! 😮

  2. Jon B

    Phil, please tell me you did NOT just write “dark side of the moon” — and in a headline no less…

    @Larian: That’s no moon…

  3. Plasticrectangle

    Uh.. that IS the dark side of the moon. Also better known as unlit. That’s the part the station crossed, so Phil is correct.

  4. Trebuchet

    TIE fighter? Nah, it looked more like the USS Enterprise to me. Or maybe Hubble.

  5. Pictures like this just never get old. And, yeah, it IS the dark side of the moon.

  6. ChH

    Dang. Larian LeQuella beat me to it.
    I would have said

    “That’s no moon. That’s a space station!”

  7. Came here for Star Wars references.I’m not disapointed.

  8. Sabean

    There is no dark side of the moon really, matter of fact it’s all dark 😉

  9. Wish NASA had told us more about Fernando Echeverria’s photography kit. That’s a brilliant shot!

  10. Ken

    I took a similar, but lower quality shot on March 17th:

    From my location the ISS passed just above the moon. I wasn’t expecting the ISS to appear so I didn’t have the right camera settings, but its something.

  11. kevlar

    “Play the five tones.”

  12. Kevin

    @ 8. Sabean – thank you for the – what should have been obvious – Pink Floyd reference.

  13. That’s too big to be a space station.

  14. The dark side of the moon is not the side that’s dark, it’s the side we can’t see. So #2 is right, #3 and #5 are wrong.

  15. Gary Ansorge

    14. Jeff Wise

    “Dark side of the moon” is both poetic and a clear reference to the ISS passing over the (currently) DARK surface of the moon. Highly unlikely you’d be able to spot it, otherwise.

    There, is that better?

    Gary 7
    PS. When I did the blowy uppy thing, it DOES look more disk shaped than segmented.

  16. Greg

    I was at the launch of Discovery, STS-131. ISS passed directly infront of the moon (from our vantage point), and the Space View Park crowd went nuts. Great image! :)

  17. ChH

    my head explodes with dark forebodings – I have a bad feeling about this.

  18. Timmy
  19. gopher65

    That’s a great image:). Thanks for posting it.

    I wish NASA had released the specs of the camera/CCD that took that image. It looks to me like it was probably taken with a standard 35mm with a decent zoom lense, but there doesn’t appear to be any of the metadata attached to the image that I’d expect if that were the case (lense info, manufacturer info, camera settings, etc).

  20. Bill McElree

    Just became my new desktop background. Wow.

  21. Messier Tidy Upper

    Wow! You can just make out the shape of the ISS.

    Good photo. :-)

    But alas, I have to say that, no, I couldn’t make out the shape of the International Space Station in that image you posted there – just a white, slightly elongated dot reminiscent of the long exposure streak made by an asteroid moving or a very short star trail. Could just be my eyesight not being as good no more but still. :-(

    Can everyone else see the ISS’s shape there?

    Is there an embiggened version somewhere?

  22. Pi-needles

    @ 6. ChH Says:

    Dang. Larian LeQuella beat me to it. I would have said: “That’s no moon. That’s a space station!”

    Actually its both! 😉

    @ 8. Sabean Says:

    There is no dark side of the moon really, matter of fact it’s all dark.

    Great Pink Floyd quote – & very true. I think I recall reading somewhere that our Moon’s albedo (reflection brightness quality) is exceptionally low – correct?

    Pink Floyd have a number of astronomy related songs (Astronomy Domine, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, Dark Side of the Moon perhaps even Is There Anybody Out There?* to name just a few!) & are one of my personal fave bands. 8)

    * To any movie / TV producers thinking of including a scene where SETI picks up alien signals or suchlike I suggest that would make an excellent soundtrack to such a scene! 😉

  23. jcm

    “dark side.”

    Then the moon is Darth Vader’s Death Star.

  24. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 8. Sabean Says:

    There is no dark side of the moon really, matter of fact it’s all dark .

    Technically, the Mare (lunar “seas”) are much darker than the lighter coloured lunar highlands regions.

    These Mare are concentrated on the side of our Moon facing the Earth.

    Therefore … the Near (Earth facing) side of the Moon is in fact its Dark(er) side & the lunar Far side (which we never* see from here) is really the Moon’s Bright(er) side!

    Isn’t it great how astronomy can mess with popular human perceptions! 😉


    * A tiny amount around the edges via libration ( aside. The Moon actually “rocks” a bit so we can see a bit over strictly 50% of it – 59% in fact. From Earth that is, natch, spaceprobes have given us the ability to see and map it all.

  25. Pi-needles

    “The Moon actually “rocks” a bit”

    The Moon actually rocks a *lot* methinks! 8)

    Especially the far “dark” side of it.

    One of my fave SF ideas is the construction of a large telescope or three or more on the Lunar Farside shielded from Earth’s radio & other electromag. noise. This would be an ideal spot for a giant Arecibo style radio telescope for a dedicated SETI facility as well as other astronomical work.

    Best of all, this is one idea that, if I live long enough, I really hope I just might see happen in my lifetime. Assuming of course that SETI hasn’t already found something in the meantime. 😉

  26. mike bukhart

    This is amazing by the way the moon has been around longer then the ISS and was a lot closer in the past

  27. Pi-needles

    @^ mike bukhart: Closer yes – but NOT as close as the ISS is now! 😉

  28. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Good photo – but I liked the ISS Lunar transit composite one better – here :

    Short memories people? I’m surprised no one else here has noted that similar & quite recent~ish one yet.

    Even better still I reckon is the ISS & shuttle silhoutted against our Sun which made the BA’s top 10 of 2006 (no. #5) :



    PS. BA – you may want to put all your Best Astronomy Pictures of 200X’ posts under the same tag – took me ages to find the ‘2006 best pictures’ page – & if you are looking for a new book idea then ‘The BA’s Best Ever Astrophotos (& the science behind them) collection’ could be a winning “coffee table” type one for you! 😉 :-)

  29. Gary Ansorge

    26 and 27

    The moon had to coalesce from a debris cloud and that couldn’t happen inside Roches limit so yeah, it was never a moon closer than 40,000 miles.

    Good call guys.

    Gary 7

  30. Michel

    But… but… the dark side is on the other side of the moon!

  31. @Jeff Wise – the side we can’t see from Earth is referred to as the “far side”. The “dark side” is the side that, at any given moment, is dark. During a full moon they more or less coincide.

    These are not difficult concepts to grasp for pedants like us, but try explaining it to my co-workers… sheesh!

  32. JB of Brisbane

    Hello (hello-hello)… is there anybody IN there?

  33. Pi-needles

    Yes. 😉

    Three (or is it four?) astronauts &/or cosmonauts or so I gather.

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Pi-needles : [Answering the “Is anybody in there?” question asked by #33 JB of Brisbane.]

    Don’t forget the seven astronauts on the shuttle as well! 😉

    In fact we can even name them – after a quick Wiki-search 😉 :

    1. Alan G. Poindexter
    2. James P. Dutton
    3.. Richard A. Mastracchio
    4. Clayton C. Anderson
    5. Dorothy M. Metcalf-Lindenburger
    6. Stephanie D. Wilson
    7. Naoko Yamazaki

    Plus there’s the six ISS occupants who are :

    Commander : Oleg Kotov, RSA

    Flight engineer 1 : Soichi Noguchi
    Flight engineer 2 : Timothy Creamer
    Flight engineer 3 : Aleksandr Skvortsov
    Flight engineer 4 : Mikhail Korniyenko
    Flight engineer 5 : Tracy Caldwell Dyson

    See : &

    Plus there’s a group photo of all thirteen people aboard both craft here :

  35. GojDugo

    on sunday evening I saw what looked like a shuttle passing beind the moon from my angle of view..the shuttle looked as bright as any commercial air liner. I know It passed behind it. It scared me thinking how close this thing can be.


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