Have you ever thought you’d seen a shooting star and later realized that what you saw was the International Space Station? It happens more than you might think. Experienced astrophotographers are usually able to tell the difference and can pinpoint what sets the ISS flight pattern apart from a shooting star. As you can see in the image below, the stars wrap around the sky in a circular pattern. On the right side of the mountain, the ISS clearly orbits the Earth. If you know where to look, you can set your camera up to capture multiple exposures of its trajectory:
Photographer Ruan Bekker took this wonderful shot of the International Space Station seen above Lion’s Head Peak in Cape Town, South Africa. Ruan used a Nikon D600 camera with a 20mm f/1.8 lens to capture multiple pictures that he merged during post-processing. The foreground required only one shot, but the ISS light trails blended 22 shots with an 8-second shutter speed, f/4 aperture, and ISO 800. The gaps shown in the ISS’s trajectory show the different exposures that he captured.
An interesting aspect of this image is the cloud inversion shown below the peak. This weather phenomenon occurs when the hot air sits above the cold air beneath it. Sometimes, you are able to ascend above the clouds when a cloud inversion happens. As you can see here, Bekker was lucky enough to witness this along with a sky full of stars and the ISS flight pattern. Amazing work!
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