A once in a blue moon shot! Astrophotographer captures stunning photo of the International Space Station as it passes across the lunar surface
- The orbiting space science laboratory had been reorientated for a spacewalk
- An astrophotographer captured the ISS image in Sacramento, California
- The image shows the ISS as it transits the moon early on Monday morning
A stunning image of the International Space Station against a backdrop of the moon has been captured as its astronauts prepared for a spacewalk.
The orbiting science laboratory had been reorientated to allow astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover to step out and prepare solar arrays for future upgrades.
Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy captured the image of the station, which is orbiting 400km above the Earth, while on a roadside in Sacramento, California.
This rare shot of the reorientated view of the station, captured at about 10:44 GMT on Monday, ‘instantly became on of my favourite captures,’ explained McCarthy.
The International Space Station is captured on camera in a super-rare photo – as the spacecraft was illuminated for a split-second while passing in front of the moon
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk to install solar array modification kits on the space station on Sunday February 28
What made this image remarkable was the orientation of the ISS at the time it was taken and the ‘to the second’ precision of McCarthy capturing the orbiting lab as it grazed across the Copernicus crater on the moon – before it disappeared.
This lunar impact crater is visible with binoculars slightly northwest of the centre of the Moon’s Earth-facing hemisphere.
The solar panels that usually lie flat at each side of the station were seen shifting at different angles due to the spacewalk, adding to the uniqueness of the photograph.
In its normal orientation the eight solar arrays are fully stretched to gather energy from the sun, but during a spacewalk they are sometimes realigned
McCarthy said the image became an instant favourite out of the many photographs he captures of the night sky on a daily basis.
‘This is due to the novelty of capturing a spacecraft from Earth, but especially since I could clearly see the reconfiguration of the solar array due to a mission that was being live streamed from NASA,’ he explained.
‘This is one of the rare times where you can observe changes in the structure due to a mission easily from Earth.
‘In this image, you can see how the solar array has been reoriented so the crew of the ISS can install new hardware.’
British astronaut Tim Peake replied to the post about the image on Twitter, saying: ‘Congratulations on getting such a fantastic shot of my old home!’
The photo was captured on a roadside in Sacramento, California, chosen as it was a clear sky where McCarthy could capture the ISS following a path through the moon.
‘But I didn’t expect to get this cool, rare shot of a mission happening over our heads.
McCarthy said the image became an instant favourite out of the many photographs he captures of the night sky on a daily basis
‘And to top it off, in the photo the ISS happens to be grazing my favourite lunar crater, Copernicus. What a world.’
He added: ‘At 2:44am this morning, I positioned myself so the ISS would pass between the moon and I to get this picture. What I didn’t expect- was for the ISS to look so much different than usual.’
For the spacewalk, that led to the new look ISS, Glover and Rubins were continuing work on upgrades to the power systems, which are degrading slowly over time.
British astronaut Tim Peake replied to the post about the image on Twitter to describe it as a ‘fantastic shot of my old home’
Their work lasted seven hours and four minutes on Sunday February 28, between 11:12 and 18:16 GMT – all live streamed by NASA.
The ISS has eight solar array wings, each designed to produce a total of 250kW of power and the oldest was launched in 2000, the most recent on 2009 – all by the now defunct space shuttles.
They are functioning well but degrading as they were designed to have a 15 year life span – and the oldest are now 21 years old. New solar arrays will be placed in front of the old ones later this year, launching on a SpaceX vehicle in June.
The next spacewalk will see Rubins pair up with Soichi Noguchi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to complete more solar array upgrades.
EXPLAINED: THE $100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION SITS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH
The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.
Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.
ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.
The US space agency, Nasa, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding that is endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees Nasa has begun looking at whether to extend the program beyond 2024.
Alternatively the money could be used to speed up planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.