Watch a spacewalk from your backyard.
March 4, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Amateur astronomer Martin Lewis used a home-made telescope and digital camera to take a picture of the International Space Station, and caught NASA astronaut Steve Bowen on a spacewalk.
posted by jjray (30 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Moments later, he was arrested for photographing government property.

And "Martin Lewis" is a great name, but only if his middle initial is "N".
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:54 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Earthbound photography like that never ceases to amaze me. This ISS-Sun transit shot is another one. Great stuff.
posted by jquinby at 9:54 AM on March 4, 2011


Wait, what was Steve Bowen doing on a spacewalk? No walks were scheduled for that time and no one should have been outside of the ship. In addition, hasn't anyone remarked on the strange blur just below the ship? When you run it through a sharpening filter it looks remarkably like a small child, sans space suit.

What kind of experiments are NASA astronauts running up there without telling us?
posted by charred husk at 10:04 AM on March 4, 2011


BOOM! HEADSHOT!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:06 AM on March 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Incredible. I wonder how far away the ISS was when Lewis captured those frames. At the very least it was 350km but it's likely it was rather more. Anyone have a handy way to calculate the ISS's angular altitude from St Albans at 18:47:41 on March 2?
posted by Songdog at 10:07 AM on March 4, 2011


it looks remarkably like a small child, sans space suit. What kind of experiments are NASA astronauts running up there

In Space, Children are to be Seen, but not Heard Screaming.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:10 AM on March 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH THAAAAAT'SSSS SSSSOOOOOO FFFFFFFUUCKKINNNN COOOOOLLLLLL!!!!!

I had to close the door to my office so my boss wouldn't see me dancing around in joy.
posted by notsnot at 10:17 AM on March 4, 2011


That telescope was a Dobsonian!!!

it says so at the bottom of the composite picture
posted by warbaby at 10:23 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


warbaby: "That telescope was a Dobsonian!!!"

Yes, and hand-guided.
posted by Songdog at 10:39 AM on March 4, 2011


So how much would it cost to build something like that? Anybody know?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:47 AM on March 4, 2011


ncredible. I wonder how far away the ISS was when Lewis captured those frames.
Well St Albans is at about 90m AMSL, the ISS orbit varies between 348 and 357 kms. Don't know where it was in its orbit at the time but there isn't all that much variation. So short answer is, pretty friken high up.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 10:51 AM on March 4, 2011


Oh, also I just found this, ISS Status report for March 2, 2011
http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/somd/reports/iss_reports/2011/03022011.html
For that specific date it was:
Mean altitude – 351.4 km
Apogee height – 354.7 km
Perigee height – 348.1 km
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 10:56 AM on March 4, 2011


That is so cool.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:00 AM on March 4, 2011


I just want to add that the last couple of nights of ISS + Discovery passes in London have been by turns frustrating and magical. I've prayed for the ever-present clouds to part, taken some truly crap long exposure photos, dragged my neighbours out into the cold to stare at a fast-moving dot, loitered in the local park like a drug dealer, and generally pissed my wife right off every evening around 7pm.

Don't care.

I think the ISS is a catastrophic waste of money and the Shuttle should have been retired after Challenger but I don't care and I love this shit.
posted by bright cold day at 11:01 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


A 222mm Dobsonian could be built for just a few hundred dollars. A factory-built 254mm Dobsonian can be bought off the self for only $500.

The hand-guided Dobsonian aspect of this really is the amazing bit. Usually the astro-photographers we see use motorized equatorial mounts costing thousands. A Dobsonian mount consists of four pieces of plywood. Hand-guiding it to track against the rotation of the earth is a great skill, let alone a target in low earth orbit.

This shot is a stack of 640x480 frames. Damn, even I have better handware than that mated to a bigger mirror, but I've got zero photographs of astronauts in space on my record. This is really inspiring.
posted by rlk at 11:03 AM on March 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sea-level cat is watching you EVA.
posted by dhartung at 11:03 AM on March 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hand-guided - am impressed! PeterMcDermott - you can get an Orion kit to build a similar sized Dobsonian for less than $400 via Amazon. We have friends who've been more hardcore about it scrounging heavy cardboard construction tubing and grinding their own lenses to build a scope for a lot less. Here's a site with lots of info about building your own.
posted by leslies at 11:06 AM on March 4, 2011


PeterMcDermott: "So how much would it cost to build something like that? Anybody know?"

Do you mean building it from scratch? The most important component of the telescope is the mirror (in this case, 8.7" in diameter). You can grind your own, or you can buy a really nice one for $1,000 or so. Part of the beauty of a Dobsonian is that the tube and mount can be made out of inexpensive construction materials, though there are plenty of fancier designs. I'm sure you could get it built for far less than $1,000 total if you look for the cheapest route, but you could certainly choose to spend a lot more on the various parts (secondary mirror, focuser, etc.). As a comparison you can get a good mass-produced 10" Dob for just over $500 (8" and 10" are common sizes in this range) or a nice 10" hand-made by someone else for around $1,300.

The actual camera he used was a modified webcam, in this case a higher-end model at €345. The camera is connected to a laptop that records a large number of separate frames. The best (sharpest, steadiest) frames are then stacked and combined in software.
posted by Songdog at 11:08 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pink Fuzzy Bunny: "Well St Albans is at about 90m AMSL, the ISS orbit varies between 348 and 357 kms. Don't know where it was in its orbit at the time but there isn't all that much variation. So short answer is, pretty friken high up."

Right, it's about 350km above the earth's surface, but it's only as close as 350km line-of-sight from St Albans when it's directly overhead. When it comes over the horizon as seen from St Albans it's about ~2,100km (according to this calculator, if I'm understanding it correctly). So it depends on how high in the sky it was when Lewis captured the 30 frames he ended up using. I'm curious about this distance because it's the distance at which he resolved a spacewalking astronaut with an 8.7" telescope.
posted by Songdog at 11:17 AM on March 4, 2011


I'd never do well in image intelligence, I guess, 'cause there's no way I'd have looked at those twenty-odd pixels and said 'Holy Shit! An astronaut!"

This should in no way be taken to indicate I don't find the whole thing awesome as hell.
posted by Mooski at 11:32 AM on March 4, 2011


Wow. That's a pretty impressive shot for a home made telescope.
posted by KGMoney at 11:35 AM on March 4, 2011


At the end of a robotic arm stretching from the shuttle, called the Canadarm Harperarm, can be seen a bright spot – NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

FTFY.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:51 AM on March 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Martin may have caught him but I squished his head!
posted by srboisvert at 11:56 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could have used a little more auto-focus.
posted by crunchland at 12:16 PM on March 4, 2011


I hate this kind of story, because it reminds me once again that I am doing absolutely nothing worthwhile with my spare time.
posted by Pants McCracky at 1:07 PM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's the record for a photograph of a person taken from the farthest distance away?
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:54 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Faint of Butt: "What's the record for a photograph of a person taken from the farthest distance away?"

The classified record may be different from the unclassified record in this case.
posted by Songdog at 2:11 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's the record for a photograph of a person taken from the farthest distance away?

The sharpest resolution is top secret.
posted by Brian B. at 7:56 PM on March 4, 2011


I think the ISS is a catastrophic waste of money and the Shuttle should have been retired after Challenger but I don't care and I love this shit.

This sentence segfaults my brain. This is the reason I don't understand human beings.
posted by Xezlec at 8:42 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the info on cost, everyone. Not that I'm contemplating building one -- I just couldn't help but wonder how much it would cost to do so.

I did try Google, but when I found myself in the realm of 'first, hand-grind your mirror', I knew I was out of my depth.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:37 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older The most typical person on the planet is a 28 year...  |  Public servants from four diff... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments