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Here it says we can see ISS with our naked eye. I was thinking that if we can see this thing with our eyes, then obviously we can take photo with a DSLR. I have Nikon D3300 with 18-55mm lens and Photron Stedy 400 Tripod.

My questions:

  1. what are the setting(shutter speed,exposer) to take ISS clear image?

  2. which lens to use to take ISS image?(18-55mm will be is ok?)

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The ISS is rather small. Glance at this photo from Astronomy Picture of the Day which has the space station in front of the moon. A small crop of it shows that it's really not much bigger than the craters when seen from Earth

Space Station over Lunar Terminator

This type of photograph will require a telescope. The moon is 1/2° across and even those huge 600mm lenses for a dSLR when mounted on a DX format sensor still have 2 1/2° field of view.

This type of photograph requires a telescope and precise timing. Its doable, as can be seen.


The other approach is that of a star trail. The ISS (and other satellites) move at a very good clip across the sky - much more than the 1° every 4 minutes that stars do from the rotation of the Earth. The picture below, from Wikipedia, is a 2 minute exposure.

enter image description here

You add the ISS, and you get something more like...

ISS and night sky

From How do I set the focus in long exposure night sky shots?

Ok, so thats not a star trail, but that is the ISS, and that is how it would look (in a stacked photograph) of a star trail too.

The point that is being made here is that the ISS is just another 'star'. A bit brighter than other satellites, but comparable.

As with other star trails, a normal or wide lens will work quite nicely. Just know where and when to point your camera, and photograph it.

For that (which I would argue is the trickiest part), you should go to http://spotthestation.nasa.gov and sign up for alerts.

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Here is a sample. Details are in the EXIF https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotos_hkpc/22034958756/

The star trail photo that clearly shows a 'this isn't a star':

  • Lumix G Vario
  • 100mm lens
  • 125 ISO
  • 60 second exposure
  • f/2.8 aperture
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Here are pretty good directions: http://shanemurphyphoto.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/imaging-the-iss/

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    Can you summarize? You know the drill around link-only answers! – mattdm Dec 12 '15 at 13:55
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I don't know what setting you need, but the ISS is a small moving item in the orbit. Just use your equipment and try to make a nice picture of the moon. Same situation: Indirect lighten object in the night sky. Then you know the basic setting.

Frankly you will see a white spot, but waitig for the ISS is fun, too.

Update: As MichaelT mentioned, http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ ist a good starting point to check the dates, because you will see the ISS in bright sunlight (while its night at your place) only a few times of the year. In germany is is during the summer, so laying in the back and watching to sky is quite fine.

  • yes, too much fun:) i hope i will able to see. hard to find those coordinate. – editinit Dec 11 '15 at 20:40
  • Heavens Above gives information on passes as well and includes the expected magnitude, so you can find the bright ones. – Ross Millikan Dec 14 '15 at 21:22
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Regarding still shots, you will definitely need a telescope, probably a barlow, adaptors for the camera to connect with the barlow/scope.

I have been trying to do this for a few months with a Canon EOS M50, a newtonian 150/750 telescope + 3x barlow and my results were not very good so far. I have actually had better results with an iPhone camera pointing directly at the telescope lens recording in slowmo. Also, my barlow is very low quality, so there's that.

From my experience, in order to do it you'll need to set your DSLR to shoot 1/1600 (or less — like 1/2000), ISO 6400 and have it set to shoot continuously at high speed (a fast memory card can help you a lot).

You'll need to mount the camera on the scope, so you'll need an adaptor.

You'll also need to focus manually, which is one of the big problems. People say you should focus on a star and keeping it into focus just before the ISS passes by, but I always had trouble getting into focus. A Bahtinov mask helps you to focus on the star, but the station might still be a bit out of focus when you start shooting. You don't really have time to focus while it passes on the short FOV you'll get.

If you have a nice mount that allows you to move the telescope easily and you can get some red dot scope for pointing the telescope to the right place. You can just move it to a predicted ISS position, shoot everything you can, move it again to another predicted position, shoot again and repeat this as much as you like (at least until you stop seeing it with your eyes). You can get lots of shots this way.

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