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Amateur Astronomer Grabs Amazing ISS Picture

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the good-focus dept.

Space 80

The Bad Astronomer writes "Ralf Vandebergh is an amateur astronomer, and using a simple telescope with a video camera attached to it, he took an incredibly detailed picture of the International Space Station. You can easily see the recently-installed truss and solar panels, as well as the Space Shuttle Discovery docked to the station."

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If they want to save power (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337775)

They should turn off those stadium lights

Re:If they want to save power (-1, Troll)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337917)

I know nothing about photography, so could someone tell me how is it so difficult to accomplish that grainy piece of crap? I'm not trolling or anything, but when they said incredibly detailed, I was expecting a high-res photo that allows you to see the crew from the windows.

Re:If they want to save power (5, Insightful)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337933)

It's a football field, 200 miles away, traveling at 17,500 mph.

You try it.

Re:If they want to save power (4, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338639)

Except it's not, it's the cheer squad ON the football field. And you're complaining because you can't see their tits clearly.

Re:If they want to save power (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27339695)

And you're complaining because you can't see their tits clearly.

Well, duh. Wouldn't you?

Re:If they want to save power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27343761)

Except it's not, it's the cheer squad ON the football field. And you're complaining because you can't see their tits clearly.

Seems like a legitimate complaint to me!

Re:If they want to save power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27346215)

It's a football field, 200 miles away, traveling at 17,500 mph.

You try it.

The relative speed of the object is almost completely a non-issue. What matters is the relative angular velocity.

Ya, it's a neat picture for a novice astronomer/photographer. But is is NOT "incredibly detailed". Perhaps relatively detailed, but not "incredibly".
Any kid in the right geographic area with a high-power telescope, tripod, and camera could take this picture. It's just that most of them don't go posting it all over the internet.

Re:If they want to save power (4, Informative)

MeanMF (631837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337957)

It's blurry because it's taken through miles of atmosphere. That's why Hubble is in orbit and most observatories are on top of mountains.

Re:If they want to save power (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337979)

most observatories are on top of mountains.

Not an easy thing to find in the Netherlands.

Re:If they want to save power (1, Funny)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338095)

I've seen a pair of really nice mountain in the Netherlands belonging to a girl named Hope.

Re:If they want to save power (1)

Ghost Hedgehog (814914) | more than 5 years ago | (#27344249)

Well the area of Maastricht is the highest we've got.

Re:If they want to save power (2, Informative)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338473)

Probably a good deal of that blur can be removed though - there are some stunningly detailed images of area 51 from 26 miles away taken through a telescope using multiple images to remove the atmospherics:
http://www.dreamlandresort.com/area51/panorama_0608.html [dreamlandresort.com]

Naturally this would be a little more challenging with the ISS since it's moving pretty fast through the scope - probably need a motor drive on it to keep it steady.

Re:If they want to save power (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339699)

Adaptive optics [wikipedia.org] would be the way to go. And realise that your images of area 51 have the camera and target within the same atmospheric layer, making the problem considerably more trivial.

Re:If they want to save power (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27341025)

I thought it was blurry because he was hand tracking it (moving the telescope manually) -- a 25cm netwonian is a pretty decent sized scope though (just under 10")

Re:If they want to save power (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337985)

...grainy piece of crap?

Pretty strong opinion for somebody who knows nothing... :-)

Re:If they want to save power (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338495)

Lame to mod this troll. I am a photographer, and I had to read it to find out why it's "amazing". It doesn't look that impressive unless you know what went into it.

I'm still really surprised to find out how impressive this lousy looking fuzzy shot really is. On a clear night, with the right equipment, I would have assumed you could do much better.

Am I troll? Or just uninformed?

Re:If they want to save power (1)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27342425)

Am I troll? Or just uninformed?

You're just uninformed ... unless you are a very GOOD troll!

You are simply spoiled by all the soooper hi-res photos of space thingys that are viewable on the webz. Unless you pay close attention to such stuff, it's easy to get the impression that photos of space thingys should always be razor-sharp and colorful. The fantastic images provided by Hubble haven't helped that situation. Unless you care, you probably haven't bothered to notice that even space-telescope pictures, taken without Earth's blurry atmosphere in the way, are often false color or enhanced color, highly-processed images that sum thousands of individual shots into one soooper view.

To get a high-magnification image from the ground the photographer not only has to fight the atmosphere (imagine taking portraits from the bottom of a filled swimming pool - it's a lot like that) but is doing battle with the laws of optics that say (more high-magnification) == (dimmer)+(blurrier).

This particular shot of the ISS from a 9cm scope is "amazing" because it shows a lot of detail for a picture of a 100-meter-wide object at 350 km. What's also "amazing" is that he was tracking the ISS by hand. (!!) If you've ever tried to track a high-magnification view of the freaking moon by hand, you're impressed.

No, the picture is not "amazing" if you compare it with automated-tracking 3-meter-aperture-scope shots that have been imaged processed to death but it is amazing for a picture that sums the frames from a webcam view through a 9cm scope that was hand-tracked. Webcam. Sheesh.

Re:If they want to save power (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27346027)

You *admit* you nothing about the topic, then proceed to shoot your mouth off with a strong opinion about it anyway. I never get that.

Re:If they want to save power (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337943)

It must be a reflection of the sun.

Re:If they want to save power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27337963)

Whoosh - and no, that wasn't just the space station going overhead.

WOW!! (2, Funny)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337795)

IT DOES EXIST!!

Does it mean that the moon landing happened too?

Re:WOW!! (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338165)

It would be cool to build a telescope dedicated to seeing the flag on the moon. However I'll just be happy with the mirror they put up there so we can shine a laser and measure how far the moon is away from the Earth.

Re:WOW!! (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338813)

Bah. How do you know astronauts put the mirror up there? I'm sure that back in 1969, NASA could land something on the Moon which would reflect back a laser.

Re:WOW!! (2)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339683)

Yep, land, deploy the mirror, then leave again, leaving behind nothing but a flag and the lower stage of a LEM... hell, if they could have done that with robots, there'd have been no point in sending the astronauts.

Re:WOW!! (1)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339937)

Re:WOW!! (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 5 years ago | (#27374381)

Ummmm...yeah...I think that was the GP's point.

Re:WOW!! (1)

chadplusplus (1432889) | more than 5 years ago | (#27340921)

With current technology, its impossible to see the flag on the moon. I didn't check this site's [rocketroberts.com] math, but it confirms what I've read several times before. According to their calculations, we'd need a telescope with an aperture of approximately 800 feet to just barely see the flag. But even with adaptive optics, atmospheric distortion would still be the limiting factor. The Keck telescope has a best angular resolution of about 5 milliarcseconds [spie.org] with adaptive optics. The flag from Earth is about a 10th of that (4.716 x 10^-4 arc seconds).

Regarding the "blurriness" of the ISS photo. I've dabbled in some astronomy and astrophotography and its really amazing (or frustrating) just how much shifting and blurring you see while looking through a telescope at high magnification.

Par for the course... (5, Informative)

Wiener (36657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337813)

Ralf, quite simply, takes amazing photos. From what I understand, these are manually tracked snapshots.

He has a number of photos posted at Cloudy Nights [cloudynights.com] in the "Planetary and Solar System Observing" forum.

Also... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338175)

Maybe I've been living in a barrel, but I believe he's come up with a cool new verb as well:

"embiggen". As in "click to embiggen". Nice, I'll use that... ;-)

Re:Also... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338197)

Huh. Feel free to mod me -1 ignoramus or whatever. Just discovered I have indeed been living in a barrel, since I don't follow the Simpsons. :-)

Re:Also... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338349)

Now you see what you've been missing.

Re:Also... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27343871)

Huh. Feel free to mod me -1 ignoramus or whatever. Just discovered I have indeed been living in a barrel, since I don't follow the Simpsons. :-)

Don't worry, it was a perfectly cromulent post.

Re:Also... (2, Funny)

Zugok (17194) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338511)

This time it was not a cromulent word to use.

Cloudy Nights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338857)

The website for fat American guys with too much money, who know everything there is to know about small American-made telescopes (ie "How they're the best of the best of the best, and anything made in China is junk."), but don't know a damn thing about astronomy?

Yeah, great site. For people who are looking for this month's obsession.

A simple technique taken to an extreme (5, Informative)

The Hooloovoo (78790) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337815)

He basically used a method reminiscent of a technique used by amateur astronomers to take pictures of planets and asteroids: take a lot of frames using a cheap webcam [wildimaging.co.uk] and stack them together, weeding out the bad ones as you go.

The principle behind it is pretty simple. When it comes to seeing nearby planets (Pluto and friends are obviously exceptions), telescopes are limited less by magnification and more by atmospheric distortion. What's not clear from the article is if this is a single frame grab (which is pretty cool but not an incredible technical feat) or if he managed to track it precisely enough to stack a few frames.

Re:A simple technique taken to an extreme (4, Informative)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337941)

Stacking frames does not require precision tracking. You only need to track it well enough to keep it in the frame. And in some cases partially out of the frame still has limited usefulness. The software correlates the positions based on what is in the picture. If there's enough of a pattern to make the alignment (at sub-pixel resolution), then it's easy. If it's fuzzy, you might have to do the alignment manually.

Re:A simple technique taken to an extreme (1)

Fanro (130986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27341625)

since the angular speed and direction of the ISS an other orbital objects is constant and known, do you even need fancy alignment correlation?

If you have precise timing for your shots, would it suffice to align the first and last picture, and the alignment of the rest can be infered from them?

Re:A simple technique taken to an extreme (3, Informative)

david.given (6740) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338339)

...take a lot of frames using a cheap webcam [wildimaging.co.uk] and stack them together, weeding out the bad ones as you go.

You might be interested to have a look at some software called ALE [dyndns.org] , which can be used to do this more or less automatically; you give it a sequence of frames and it'll synthesize a superresolution image combing data from every frame.

(You can also use it to generate panoramic images from video pans --- it automatically locates, rotates and transforms every frame correctly, figuring everything out for itself!)

The only problem with it is that it's really slow, so you'll probably want as big a computer as you can humanly manage.

One day I should try taking some simple digital camera footage of the moon and running it through ALE just to see what happens...

Re:A simple technique taken to an extreme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27340061)

You might be interested to have a look at some software called ALE, which can be used to do this more or less automatically; you give it a sequence of frames and it'll synthesize a superresolution image combing data from every frame.

Sounds like the FOSS version of Photosynth. [photosynth.net]

obligatory (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27337823)

Thats no moon,it IS a space station give the man some geek points!

Re:obligatory (2, Funny)

Spinalcold (955025) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339587)

Honest to the Force, my friend's daughter was taught by her mom to decern the Space Station from the Moon, "that's no moon, thats a space station". So when she went away, her daughter (3 years old) grabbed her dad, pulled him to the bedroom and pointed at the space station, and said "No Moon, Space Station."

Give geek points to the 3 year old, she deserves them!

Re:obligatory (1)

sirmonkey (1056544) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339591)

*family joe*

ha!

Re:obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27340755)

Even without the ObSW quote, the man gets some geek points for an awesome photo.

Still, the quote is extremely appropriate here. Take a point for yourself.

Click to embiggen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27337847)

These are perfectly cromulent pictures for an amateur. :-)

On a clear night... (2, Informative)

pallmall1 (882819) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337865)

...you can see forever.

Re:On a clear night... (4, Funny)

stox (131684) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337939)

On a clear disk you can seek forever.

Re:On a clear night... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338409)

My hat is off to you, Mr. Sinatra :).

Another way to view (4, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337883)

You can view things up in orbit this way [astrosurf.com] too. Just don't do it without the proper filtering protection.

Impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27337915)

Best photo of a streetlight I've ever seen.

Can anyone else see the wires? (1)

spankyofoz (445751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27337955)

The blurring has almost hidden them, but put the image through a gaussian filter, and all is revealed.

Plus you can see the tiles missing from the space shuttle

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (5, Funny)

MeanMF (631837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338015)

If you run it through the image processing software they use on 24, you can actually make out the license plate number too.

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338075)

Wait, look closer -- I see a naked chick!

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338271)

Any sign of that bat?

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338413)

+5 Funny.

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338707)

Enhance!

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (4, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339169)

If you run it through the image processing software they use on 24, you can actually make out the license plate number too.

Even though its on the other side, facing away from us.

They can lift the print of the guy who screwed it on too.

But the real feat is that they can make out the license plate of the car across the street of a suspected terrorist by enhancing the reflection on one of the space stations windows, on a cloudy day.

I used to enjoy TV. Its almost sad. I can watch a rerun of something like "Columbo" and I find fewer plot holes and more credible police work, more credible set designs, more credible ... everything, than I do on CSI. Sure in Columbo the villain was usually improbably or even implausibly ratting himself out... but compared to the routine violation the current limits of technology, and in many cases the known limits of even theoretical sciencce we are subjected to in the CSI's... Columbo is actually the more beleivable... by far.

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 5 years ago | (#27346355)

Deus ex machina - it gets old quick.

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (1)

cbuskirk (99904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339207)

If you run it through the image processing software they use on 24, you can actually make out the license plate number too.

As 24 taught us, all you gotta do to enhance/scan/hack thru any computer problem is open another socket.

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339697)

If you run it through the image processing software they use on 24, you can actually make out the license plate number too.

Quick! Someone send these guys a speeding ticket!

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338321)

I can see the wires too, holding it up. ISS is definitely a hoax, like the moon landings (which were actually filmed on a stage on Venus).

Also, a better title for this story might be "Hobbyist does something hobbyists do every single day, but we're short on news today here at Slashdot."

Re:Can anyone else see the wires? (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27340125)

I find this a lot more interesting than some article about RIAA this or that. We don't all have the read the same stuff.

That picture sucks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27337989)

Look how blurry it is!

click to embiggen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338071)

that was a perfectly cromulent article

What about Rayleigh Criteria? (4, Informative)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338159)

I mean I wouldn't be surprised if he was getting pretty close to that limit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rayleigh_criterion#Explanation [wikipedia.org] To make that short I kind of remember this from my physics class that ultimately the limit on being able to differentiate between 2 objects depends on the size of your main mirror/lens and the wavelength of light you use. (IE a bigger main mirror or shorter wave length of light means you can differentiate between closer and closer objects.) If I remember correctly I did the math and found out that you'd need a mirror about 250 meters across to resolve the landing site on the moon from an earth based telescope. (But I can't remember if that resolution was 1 meter or 30.)

A mirror -- just in case (2, Informative)

The 2nd . Oracle (1485825) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338263)

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com.nyud.net/badastronomy/2009/03/25/shuttle-and-station-imaged-from-the-ground/ [nyud.net]

Funny how nyud.net has disappeared from /. in the last few years. I kinda miss the reliability. It seems like twice a day some poor website is blasted half way around the world because of /., why not use nyud.net some more?

Re:A mirror -- just in case (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338979)

I hadn't noticed, but yeah, where is the love for nyud?
It's always the first thing I try to pull up a non-loading site; I've also used it as a form of cheap file mirroring.

No Subject (4, Informative)

Orphaze (243436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338285)

It's certainly a good image, but not the best. This image [nasa.gov] of Ralf's, for instance, is noticeably more clear. He has many more amazing images though on his site here [asahikawa-med.ac.jp] .

Re:No Subject (2, Informative)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338671)

It's certainly a good image, but not the best. This image [nasa.gov] of Ralf's, for instance, is noticeably more clear. He has many more amazing images though on his site here [asahikawa-med.ac.jp] .

Holy shit. There's a picture of his on that site which actually managed to capture an astronaut on a spacewalk [asahikawa-med.ac.jp] . Talk about impressive.

Thanks for the link, there's a whole lot of very interesting shots there.

Vandeberghâ(TM)s 25 cm Newtonian Telescope (1)

Flyin Fungi (888671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338317)

I am trying to get a pic of this Vandeberghâ(TM)s 25 cm Newtonian telescope. I wanted to get an idea of the size of a telescope you would have to use to get his kind of picture. Google is of no avail. Help?

Re:Vandeberghâ(TM)s 25 cm Newtonian Telescope (3, Informative)

The Bad Astronomer (563217) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338419)

It's a 10 inch mirror. I owned a 'scope like that for over 20 years, and it's a pretty decent instrument. It looked like a water heater; a foot across and two yards long.

Huh? (0, Offtopic)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338323)

Too late for the trolls? I was really expecting a goatse comment somewhere...

"Amateur Astronomer Grabs Amazing ASS Picture"

Come on, "amateur", "astronomer", "grabs", "amazing", "ass", and "picture"... fine, just mod me down and resume as normal.

Amazing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338393)

Amazingly blurry, maybe. The photo referenced is nowhere near in focus.

How in the blazes of hell this photo could be considered "amazing" is beyond me.

I've seen clearer photos from UFO hoaxers.

Re:Amazing? (1)

Kredal (566494) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338757)

UFO hoaxers don't generally claim to find things that are in orbit.

Wait... conspiracy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338543)

Wait a second... so it's not all a conspiracy?

Good God! We must have made it to the moon, too!

I'd really like (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339211)

to photograph the earth from the ISS.

Irresponsible (4, Funny)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339303)

I can't believe the government are allowing people to take these sorts of images. This is just a gift to the terrorists, they'll be able to see exactly which parts of the space station to target and may even be able to bring the whole thing down on a major population centre.

Unbelievable !

Re:Irresponsible (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27344853)

I know you got modded funny, but you should have gotten some "insightful" points as well -- because this is how some military folks actually think.

An anecdote: Our office is in charge of creating a display for a local airport. The plan was to showcase some of the satellites we control and some information about what they do. A couple of weeks into working on things, someone from higher headquarters said they were concerned about including information on how high the satellites are above the Earth.

Yes -- some knothead decided that we should omit information like the satellites' altitude, despite the fact that this information is already freely [af.mil] available [af.mil] to the public [af.mil] .

Oh, and this higher headquarters? It's the same agency that's now responsible for "defending cyberspace."

This guy does better than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27340951)

In fact in one of his latest posts on cloudynights, Ralf has shown that it's also possible to image an astronaut on an EVA activity.

Here's the link http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/2997606/page/1/view/collapsed/sb/5/o/all/fpart/1

Faked Picture (3, Funny)

StormReaver (59959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27341281)

This is obviously a fake. If you look closely, you can see the wires holding up the space station! The only rational conclusion is that the space station was filmed in front of a live studio audience under strict NDA. Quick! Somebody notify Fox News! They'll do one of their award winning exposes. They'll probably even be able to get Geraldo to unmask the perpetrators!

Darn (0, Offtopic)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27343463)

Now we'll have to listen to Sarah Palin claiming "I can see the Space Station from my house!"
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