Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The ISS crosses the moon

On Sunday 28/12/2014 I finally managed to photograph the ISS crossing the moon. The timing and location must be very accurate. The moon is only half a degree in the sky and the time it takes the ISS to pass over the moon is less than a second. Here is the video. The details and explanation will follow. Make sure to watch the video in full screen mode with 1080HD resolution.

I wrote a general article in the past about how to use the Heaves-Above (HA) site to find when the ISS is passing over you and how you can spot and see the ISS. For this pass I saw that the path is very near the moon and even crossing it, but accuracy is very important. The moon is not that far from Earth even a change of 1km in the observer's location will give a slightly different path which can miss the moon.

The ISS and the moon just after the pass
The ISS and the moon just after the pass
When I checked the details of this path I first got the following map. The map looks very promising, the ISS is crossing the moon right from my house. Home sweet home. I can arrange all the equipment on my roof in peace and have a nice hot cup of coffee.
Usually when I check in which constellation the ISS passes it is enough but for the moon you should press the map to get a larger resolution which is better. And in that map, we can see that the ISS is NOT crossing the moon., What a shame. But not all is lost.

What I did was to go to the site settings and switch my location to many small towns nearby. With some trial and error I found out that I need to be some 6km south from my house in a small village named Ganot. Not a problem (You can use CalSky site to get email notifications on close passes). Still I was not sure if HA is accurate enough and if the ISS will actually pass over or just very near to the moon.

I used 3 different cameras. Canon SX50 which has a very large zoom (1200mm equivalent) for the closeup, Canon 700d with 18-250 (@250) for the first video and also a Sony DSLR for still photos with long exposure.

The setup of all camera took about 20 minutes and as I was very busy with it I hardly saw the pass itself with my eyes so I was not sure whether it passed over the moon. I took some more photos at the end of the pass. Here is the ISS in the constellation Cetus (The whale)
The ISS in Cetus
The ISS in Cetus
The pass was over and I was very excited to see what I got on the videos. I played the videos on the small cameras' screens and was very happy to see a tiny dot on both videos, but even than I couldn't be sure that it is good or that the focus is OK and so I drove back home and immediately went to the computer to look what is in the videos.
The results were edited into the video in the beginning of this post with the OpenShot software.

A pass on the moon is quite rare and if you attempt to photograph one use either video with the highest fps you can (My video is with 30fps 60 and more are better) or use high burst of single photos. Better to use several cameras and try different setups.
Here are some more of my best videos

If you read hebrew here are links to my other sites:
Books review (Hebrew)
Astronomy and scinene
The Weekly Parasha


  1. Congratulations, a wonderful experiment of celestial mechanics!!!

  2. Great stuff !
    Viewer from Switzerland

  3. hello from Canada. awesome!

  4. Hello from Czech rep.
    it is amazing! thanks!