Amazing shot of ISS and Jupiter… during daytime!

By Phil Plait | May 30, 2010 7:25 am

The amazing pictures of the space station taken by ground-based amateur astronomers keeps on coming. On May 29th, Anthony Ayiomamitis used a 16 cm (6″) telescope to capture a phenomenal image of the International Space Station passing Jupiter… in broad daylight!

ayiomamitis_iss_jupiter

Wow! Note the color of the sky; it was about 9:00 a.m. local time when he took this shot, with the Sun well above the horizon. This is actually two images added together; the first shows the ISS to the lower right, and in the second shot it had moved to the upper left. Jupiter shows its disk near the center of the frame, it being easily bright enough to be seen using a telescope in daylight.

What an incredible picture! But it gets cooler…

ayiomamitis_iss_jupiter2The picture on the right is the same shot, but this time he connected the two ISS images with a line. Given the size of both the ISS and Jupiter, it looks like the station flew directly in front of the planet from Anthony’s position! Had he taken that first shot literally a tenth of a second later, he would have had the picture of a lifetime. As it is, it’s still way cool.

Want more? I got more.

Robert Vanderbei, at Princeton University, took this picture of Jupiter, also in daylight. You can see the moons!

vanderbei_jupiter_daytime

The picture has the moons labeled. Ganymede and Europa are faint, but visible. For an added coolness, Io was poised right on the limb of the planet’s disk. You can see the Red Spot, and also how the southern equatorial belt of Jupiter is missing (it should be at about the same latitude as the Red Spot). To get this Robert used a 9 cm (3.5″) Questar ‘scope, which is small but has very nice optics.

And one more, but it’s a link: Universe Today is reporting that an amateur got shots of the Air Force X37-B in orbit!

All this goes to show that the word "amateur", as I’ve been saying for years, is losing its meaning. Like everything in nature, when you get near the boundary between two entities, the lines get blurry. I know lots of so-called amateurs who have a far keener grasp of the sky and the objects in it than some professionals. Astronomy is one of the few sciences where someone with even modest equipment can do phenomenal work in the field. I love it, and it’s a great time to be an astronomer!

Image credits: Anthony Ayiomamitis, Robert Vanderbei, used by permission.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (57)

  1. DrFlimmer

    I already said this on UniverseToday, but I wonder if we shouldn’t call for the world championship in “satellite photographing”. It seems to become a real sport to take pictures of satellites, they come more and more frequently.

    Nonetheless: amazing!

  2. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    One of these days I’m gonna get me a ‘scope and CCD camera, haul my ass outta this town (London, UK) and then take some shots myself (of the sky, not my butt!). :P

  3. I don’t think that’s a space station. It’s just a TIE fighter. Must have got separated from its convoy.

  4. bigjohn756

    These guys are called amateurs only because they aren’t paid for doing astronomy. Their results are certainly not amateurish.

    I remember drooling over the Questar ‘scope many years ago when they were introduced. Alas, they were way too expensive for me then. At a price of between $4000.00 and $7000.00 now they still are a lot more than I can justify spending for a 3.5 inch ‘scope. But they are beautiful in all respects.

  5. Semi-on-topic story: I had my telescope set up in the front yard once, in the middle of the afternoon, tracking the waning moon, which was nicely set in an utterly cloudless blue sky.

    A neighbor comes walking by, asks what I’m looking at. (I think he believed I was peeking in someone’s window, regardless of the fact the telescope was pointed up at the sky.) I tell him I’m looking at the moon, and point it out to him. He gets a “how stupid do you take me for” kind of look on his face and starts explaining to me that it’s daytime. The moon “rises at night.”

    I again point to the moon, clearly visible overhead. He shakes his head, says something like, “mr. astrologer (yes, he said that) can’t tell the difference between the moon and a cloud,” and walked away.

  6. I was finally, for the first time, able to view Saturn through my Galileoscope last week. It was awesome. These photos, however, leave me awestruck. Amazing work.

  7. I have been imaging ISS in daylight for many years now ( there are a couple of examples on my website under the ISS in Daylight tab http://satcom.website.orange.co.uk/ ) and I can confirm just how difficult it is , especially with no point of reference.My shots are usually middle of the day with the Sun at its highest , sky brightest, in June and July.
    Its nigh impossible to get a sharp image , but , good fun trying :O)

    Brilliant work Anthony !

  8. Wow! Now those pictures are incredible. I’m particularly impressed that the second on could be taken with a 3.5″, fancy optics or not.

  9. Messier Tidy Upper

    Brilliant. :-)

    Super-luminous (beyond mere brilliance) even. 8)

    @ 5. kuhnigget Says:

    I tell him I’m looking at the moon, and point it out to him. He gets a “how stupid do you take me for” kind of look on his face and starts explaining to me that it’s daytime. The moon “rises at night.” I again point to the moon, clearly visible overhead. He shakes his head, says something like, “mr. astrologer (yes, he said that) can’t tell the difference between the moon and a cloud,” and walked away.

    I remember as a high school kid in recess looking up seeing the Moon in daytime and finding it an absolute revelation because, ‘hey isn’t that only supposed to be in the sky at night?’ Mind you that was a very long time ago when I was about 12-14 ish & knew very little astronomy…

    Did you offer him a look through your scope?

    @ 3. Larian LeQuella Says:

    I don’t think that’s a space station. It’s just a TIE fighter. Must have got separated from its convoy.

    “Don’t worry he won’t be around long enough to talk about ..” Wait up! I hope the ISS *is* around for a lot longer! ;-)

    Spot on there – it sure does look like a TIE fighter to me too. :-)

    @ 1. DrFlimmer Says:

    I already said this on UniverseToday, but I wonder if we shouldn’t call for the world championship in “satellite photographing”. It seems to become a real sport to take pictures of satellites, they come more and more frequently.

    Great idea & seconded by me. Let’s make astrophotography an Olympic Sport! That’s one I’d be happy to watch. After all, if synchronised swimming and ballroom dancing can get into the Olympics surely anything can! ;-)

  10. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    @ kuhnigget,

    I wager that if you had said to your ignorant neighbour, “I’m looking at a UFO”, he probably would have believed you!

  11. Damn fine shots! I’m also very keen on imaging the ISS through my 10″ Newtonian scope (click my name-link to see my best picture to date of the station). But there has been a bit of a drought of passes lately, and I’ve been very busy with my uni work. :( Still yet to get an alert from CalSky informing me that I’ll get to see a solar/lunar transit of the station … one day, I hope. :P

    It’s interesting to note that the ISS and Jupiter/Saturn are comparable in size – even though one is SO much smaller!

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    Next step – video footage of the ISS occulting Jove? :-)

  13. The Mutt

    In other news: The guy who photographed the Air Force X37-B has been shipped off to Gitmo.

  14. zAmboni

    Darnit. I was out imaging Jupiter this morning and I gave up at ~6:00am! Guess I should have just kept on shooting for a couple more hours :).

  15. Excellent photos! I’ll have to dust off my old telescope and try spotting a few things.

  16. NelC

    Thing is, there are virtually no cultural references to being able to see the moon during the day, although it’s not an uncommon sight if you pay any attention to the sky at all. No classical painter (to my knowledge) has painted a picture with the moon visible in daylight, no-one has written a poem about it, nobody ever mentions it. I had the same revelation as Messier at a young age, and it was a revelation because nobody ever speaks of the moon except in the context of the night sky, or rarely, eclipsing the Sun. It’s a curious cultural blindspot.

  17. Bad Albert

    The amazing pictures of the space station taken by ground-based amateur astronomers keeps on coming.

    You mean there are some who are not ground based?

  18. Peter

    One word: amazing.

  19. HA! Larien beat me to it! I thought of a TIE Fighter when I saw this. Wow! This is amazing!

    Ivan, if you took pics of your butt, that would be a picture of…..

    Wait for it……

    Wait…….

    The Twin Moons Of Uranus….

    Hahaha….

  20. MadScientist

    I would suggest stripping out the blue color; it might look better (even if the colors look weird).

  21. Dr. Morbius

    One night I was watching a total lunar eclipse through a pair of binoculars when the lady who lives across the street came over and asked me what I was looking at. I told her and she said “Oh, what planet is blocking the sun?”. I looked at her and trying to contain my laughter I politely told her.

  22. hm… this makes me want to learn how to use my telescope… I can’t see anything with it now.

  23. Mike Mullen

    People should be careful, one day your taking a shot of the X-37b, next day the X-37b is taking a shot at you..

  24. Very great shots. Makes me wish Jupiter was this visible to the naked eye!

  25. @ Messier Tidy Upper:

    Did you offer him a look through your scope?

    I didn’t have time. He retreated in a huff. It probably wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. He probably would have been like the clerics Galileo tried to get to look through his telescope at Jupiter: “The moon isn’t out in the daytime, therefore it wouldn’t be visible through your telescope, therefore it would be a waste of time to look through your telescope, therefore I won’t waste my time looking through your telescope.”

  26. Jeff Fite

    @5 kunhigget, and
    @9 Messier tidier upper,

    Similar story: one spring break when I was an undergraduate geology major, I went on a field trip to Death Valley (coldest spring break I ever saw!). One of my classmates noticed an almost-full moon shining overhead, and asked, puzzled, “is the moon out of orbit?” We teased her quite a bit about it at the time, but looking back in light of kunigget’s story I kinda regret that. She was a third-year student in a hard science, and could think about deep time–geologic time–as well as any astronomer, but she still wasn’t accustomed to thinking astronomically. It’s a real skill, and one that mere mortals haven’t developed, yet.

  27. @Marvin:
    Did you take the lens cover off… hehehehe Just teasing!! :)

  28. csrster

    I’ve heard of the opposite story as well: Some kids were given a class assignment to go out one evening after sunset and draw the moon. The only problem being that the teacher hadn’t bothered to check the times of moonrise/set but just assumed that the moon would be visible after sunset because “the moon comes out at night”.

  29. JB of Brisbane

    Was this, by any chance, taken from the bottom of a well? ;-)

    PS: In Soviet Union, space station photographs YOU!

  30. DaveH

    Great vignette @5. It’s a shame some people never look up.

  31. magetoo

    In Soviet Union, space station photographs YOU!

    Groaning at Soviet Russia jokes aside, with (astro_) Soichi Noguchi up there I suppose it can’t be long before pictures of amateur astronomers’ houses start to show up.

  32. Pi-needles

    @14. The Mutt:

    Just in, in *other* other news, the guy who told us here that the guy who photographed the Air Force X37-B has been shipped off to Gitmo has also just been shipped off to Gitmo … ;-)

    (Senses an infinite recursion loop coming on.)

  33. GB

    “A neighbor comes walking by, asks what I’m looking at. (I think he believed I was peeking in someone’s window, regardless of the fact the telescope was pointed up at the sky.) I tell him I’m looking at the moon, and point it out to him. He gets a “how stupid do you take me for” kind of look on his face and starts explaining to me that it’s daytime. The moon “rises at night.”

    I again point to the moon, clearly visible overhead. He shakes his head, says something like, “mr. astrologer (yes, he said that) can’t tell the difference between the moon and a cloud,” and walked away.”

    You should have said: Mr know it all, doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.

  34. dmnn

    Surely you mean ‘amateur’ is not losing its meaning.

  35. Sebastianmack

    “That’s no moon…its a space station… I mean look at the thing its not even bloody round man, obvious really. Like u know we’re in a space ship right now right? Not some magical flying tree thing eh? What are you like 20? you gotta take better care of yourself man. slippin’ dude, slippin..i mean that’d be one tiny obscurely shaped moon… no ya know what, just get off my ship. Right now, out the air lock. Fuggin’ stoners…”

  36. Stewart, Scotland

    @NelC

    [quote] No classical painter (to my knowledge) has painted a picture with the moon visible in daylight…

    I agree, but I did pick up an original painting at a Glasgow art fair that has the moon out in the daytime. Unfortunately the wrong half is illuminated!

    To be fair to the artist; I was at the Kennedy Space Centre the Friday before they officially opened the shuttle simulator and was lucky enough to be used as a beta tester. There’s a mural on the way in that has the moon out with the sun, but again the wrong part of the moon is illuminated. If NASA can’t get it right…

    Oh, and yes, brilliant pictures.

  37. Eric

    I love how in movies and on TV you sometimes see a full moon bathed in the full glow of sunset… or a crescent moon in sunset with the wrong side illuminated.

  38. #5 Kuhnigget:
    Another similar story… A friend of mine used to build portable planetaria ( for US readers, that’s the correct plural of planetarium, in British English! ), and gave shows at local schools.
    At one junior school ( elementary school, for US readers ), a teacher made some idiotic comment about the Moon “only coming out at night”. My friend took her outside, pointed to the sky and asked her “What’s that?”
    “The Moon”, she replied.
    “So why did you just tell the kids that it ‘only comes out at night’?”
    “Because at this age, that’s what they like to hear!”
    HUH???????!!!! Since when is it a teacher’s job to tell children “what they like to hear”, instead of the truth?????

  39. Dave W

    Great shots, but I think it’s a long shot to say that “amateur” is losing its meaning: taking photographs through telescopes is a pretty small part of what professional astronomers do. “Observers” mostly spend their time converting pictures into data and producing models to fit the data. Most may never visit the instrument their data is coming from, even if it’s a ground-based scope.

    So while these photos are definitely impressive, the type of work that amateurs do is quite distinct from what professionals do. It’s not a matter of quality, it’s just that there’s a big difference between doing astronomical research and taking ridiculously impressive photographs of astronomical objects.

  40. You should see the shots I get with “a camera”. Granted, a Pentax K-20D has 14.5megapixels, anti-shake and cool electronics, and I use a 450mm lens with a nice tripod, but still, it’s a camera! I have a shot of Mercury, and another of Jupiter showing 4 moons.

  41. UNT Student

    Amateur cones from the Latin or Italian word amore which means love. Amateurs are strictly doing it for the love. Which explains why some amateurs are better than professionals.

  42. John Blake

    “Amateur” means someone who does things for love, not money. Regardless of technical expertise, unpaid amateurs are by definition not professionals. But like many a blogger, amateurs’ sense and sensibility may far outweigh credentialed practitioners’ blinkered by their sorry preconceptions.

  43. TTT

    I wish we had much bigger space stations up (say, 3 times bigger) that would be far more easily visible to laypeople just looking upwards.

  44. West

    I had a similar astronomical “gotcha” moment with a colleague, an IT techie (who almost universally consider themselves smarter than everyone else, and experts on diverse subjects that they have never studied) who bragged that he has a picture of “Our own galaxy” on his website.

    I informed him that it was not our galaxy, but probably Andromeda, which is very similar in structure to our own. He insisted that this picture was of the Milky Way. I then asked him “OK, who took the picture and brought it back?”. While that flummoxed him for a minute, he continued to insist that he had a distance shot of the Milky Way as a background for his home page.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think…

  45. Not only could you photograph Jupiter in broad daylight, but you could even identify her moons in broad daylight!

  46. Adrian (lurking near his OS390)

    Ahh West, while not knowing what picture your IT friend had as his background, I’ve taken some lovely shots towards the haze of our galactic core down here in some dark sites in Australia (quote “It’s full of stars”). I would certainly consider them to be pictures of the Milky Way.
    While I understand what your were trying to say (ie, any distant shot showing our galaxy from a distance spot is taking artistic license to a new level), sometimes “IT Techie’s” are smarter than most others around them. *wink*

    (From different reports out there, various ‘IQ’ tests have show that those that do follow the IT fields tend to be in the higher % of scores, although in my personal view, my ‘IQ’ scores just show that I am good at ‘IQ’ tests and full of useless knowledge)

  47. Mick

    Simply awesome!

  48. The Moon in the sky during daylight? That’s nothing. Wait till you can see Venus during daylight. All it takes is a bit of good seeing, and a pair of good eyes. And knowing where to look.

  49. West

    adrian – thanks for reinforcing my point so very, very well.

  50. Jason

    There’s a great community of amateurs out there that are helping each other get better and better results each year. It’s truly amazing the quality they are getting. Here’s a site I check out frequently for updates:
    http://www.nightskyphotography.com

  51. Cara

    How plausible would it be to use a polarized filter to make a good majority of the ski less reflective, filtering out the blue scattered light and just looking at the background sources. It would take some adjusting to get a good exposure but i would guess you could get a richer contrast. do people already do this? how well does it work? I know little about really doing photography so sorry if I’m totally clueless.

  52. Very cool.

    (Insert obligatory second line here.)

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