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‘Bucket-list shot’: Australian gets rare photo of space station in front of moon

Amateur astronomer Ken Lawson says it took him eight years but he finally lined up the ‘perfect’ shot

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

/ by Myheartcares


An amateur Australian astronomer who took a “perfect” photo of the International Space Station passing in front of the moon says it took him eight years to set up. Ken Lawson, from Geraldton in Western Australia, has been an avid astronomer and photographer since childhood. On 14 March he captured the shot of the space station passing between Earth and the moon, in perfect light, with a simple camera and telescope. “The ISS is one of those bucket-list shots,” he told Guardian Australia. “I saw someone do it years and years ago and I thought I’d love to do that. It took about eight years to get it. It’s similar to a total solar eclipse.

“You have to be exactly at the right pass. It was only five minutes away from my house. It was perfect. But I had to wait eight years for that to occur.”


The ISS is only 100m long and 72m wide, orbits 300km to 435km above the Earth, and travels at a speed of 27,600km/hour – making it very difficult to photograph.

Viewed from the Earth, it takes only 0.3 seconds for it to cross the moon.

But Lawson said any passionate amateur astronomer could get the tools he used to take the photo – a Canon 5D Mark IV camera and an eight-inch manual telescope.

“It’s an off-the-shelf camera and a $500 telescope,” he said. “Nothing special.”

Lawson said he was pleased with the reaction to his photo, and was already eyeing up the next project.

“There’s always another object. Some more deep sky stuff. The other one is people get [the ISS] in front of the sun. There was actually a pass the week after I took this photo, but it was clouded out.

“I’ve been into astronomy and photography ever since I was a little kid. My dad was a photographer. My bedroom when I was a little kid used to be my dad’s darkroom. I used to have bottles of fixer and developer at the end of my bed.

“At around eight years old I saw my first blurry wobbly image of Saturn and have been hooked ever since.”

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