One crystal clear evening last fall in a central Illinois cornfield, amateur astronomers Trevor Mahlmann, a Purdue University student, and Max Fagin, a former Purdue grad student, captured the International Space Station transiting a beautiful waxing gibbous moon. Using a Canon Rebel camera attached to a 14-inch telescope and a Canon 7D Mark II in 10 fps mode matched with a 6-inch telescope, the pair arrived in time to the pre-scouted position and were privy to this inspiring celestial event.
Here are the details of the photo shoot from Mahlmann's blog site and the recently shared video below:
On the evening of September 25th, 2015, fellow Boilermaker Max Fagin and I set out again to the infamous central illinois cornfields to witness the marvel that is the International Space Station transiting (crossing in front of) the Moon. The first time I attempted a lunar transit, I was only armed with camera lenses and my Flight Director, Max was in "mission control" ... this time though Max and I were well equipped with not only cameras, but this time - two Orion telescopes - a 6 inch reflector and 14 inch Dobsonian.
We setup the Rebel for video on the 14” and used the 7D MkII’s 10 fps capture rate for photos on the 6”. As we pressed on and the sun drowned in the horizon, the sunset turned into another underglow stunner . This was taken just as the color was in its prime and the sun had set about 10 minutes prior. Underglow sunsets are when there is a layer of clouds above, with a break in those clouds in the western sky, allowing the already set sun to shine on the underside of those clouds. These are usually the most beautiful sunsets because that light on the underside of the clouds is also shining through many, many miles of the Earth's atmosphere, providing the beautiful red, pink, orange, and yellow colors to the sunsets.
The trip there was about an hour and a half and once we got there, we used Google Maps and our previously scouted location from CalSky (Cullom, IL). Transit time was scheduled for exactly 10:59:42 PM central time. Setting up both telescopes takes about an hour, and so we arrived at about 9 PM, two hours early, to have plenty of time to get the scopes setup and focused, and all the camera settings straight. Max announced the countdown and maintained the 6 inch pointed in the right direction while I maintained the 14 inch.
I decided the exact framing I wanted for the video, and up until about 8 seconds before the transit, I kept that framing maintained, but as you can see in the video, I let go so that my shaky hand didnt show up in the photos/videos of the actual transit. As I was maintaining the T5i/Dobsonian recording video, I got to watch the transit on the back of the camera right when it happened.
I was ecstatic. Our calculations were perfect. The framing of this photo/video is on the left side of the Moon looking up in the sky. The moon was two days before its full moon and phase details were as follows: Phase: Waxing Gibbous, Illumination: 90%, Moon Age: 11.73 days, Moon Distance: 367,182.58 km. Right at T zero the ISS began the planned transit as you can see in the video and followed nearly exactly the transit line we predicted.