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International Space Station fun

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About this time of year we usually get a few nights of clear weather combined with very bright passes of the International Space Station.  A couple of weeks ago we had a good one that peaked at magnitude -3.8 (explanation below).  That's bright enough to photograph at 1/2000 sec at a reasonable aperture and ISO.  I tried this a couple of years ago with the 300mm f/4 and a TC1.4 and was pleased to see obvious structure - more than just a bright dot.  This time I repeated the attempt with a 500 mm PF, which gave even more remarkable results.  The ISS photos below are from one frame that includes the star Arcturus for reference.  Taken wide open at f/5.6, 1/2000th, ISO640.  It feels comical pointing a long lens up into the dark sky and snapping away at 1/2000th sec.
In order, the photos are:
(i) Full D850 frame downsampled ~5X to 1600 x 1067.  The ISS is the 3x5 pixel speck left of center, Arcturus is a single pixel down and right.
(ii) Downsampled 2X and cropped to 1600 px to include the ISS and Arcturus.  You can begin to see some detail.   
(iii) Small 100% crop of the ISS. 
(iv) Reference 100% crop of the Moon, photographed and processed with all the same settings.
All pushed one stop, lightly sharpened in ACR and converted to jpeg without further sharpening.  I also removed some red-green fringing in ACR, which I think was atmospheric, not due to the lens. 
At this point in its orbit the station is about 495 km away.  It's 73 x 109 m.  So this is like trying to photograph the Eiffel Tower from Amsterdam, only the space station is smaller.
Cheers,  John

Note - astronomical magnitudes:  Apologies to astronomers, but this scale is nuts:  It's logarithmic, 5 magnitudes equals a factor of 100 in brightness, and back to front - negative numbers mean bright! (  Anyway, -3.8 is brighter than Jupiter, almost as bright as Venus. 

Øivind Tøien:

Well done and fun exercise!

May be try a pass in front of the moon next time.  ;)

(Yes, I have tried and miserably failed even getting the right time...)

Jakov Minić:
It looks impressive. Haven't seen photos of the international space station taken from Earth before.

Nice one, John!  Well worth trying!

Nasos Kosmas:
Yeah! I am impressed !
Good job John, where are you located and got these photos?


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