Astronauts wereoutside of the International Space Station as it passed in front of the sun last week — and a NASA photographer captured the exact moment it happened. The resulting image is breathtaking.
A composite image made from seven frames taken by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky shows the silhouette of the ISS last week as it transited the sun at about five miles per second, or about 18,000 miles per hour. The images, which feature the sun as a glowing orange backdrop to the statement Monday., were taken from Nellysford, Virginia, NASA said in a
“This was a fun one to chase down today,” Kowsky tweeted after snapping the rare photos.
A GIF of the composite image shared by NASA also shows the space station’s progression across the sun.
The ISS circles Earth every 90 minutes, meaning the crew experiences 16 sunrises and sunsets in a 24-hour period. Despite this common occurrence, capturing the ISS transiting our star is “rare,” NASA says. Photographers must also be wearing proper eye protection, since looking directly at the sun is damaging.
“With a very limited path of visibility along the ground, having clear weather at the identified location is one of the most limiting factors in being able to capture a transit,” Kowsky said last year.
Currently onboard the space station are Expedition 65 NASA astronauts Megan McArthur, Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy.
At the time the photos were taken, Kimbrough and Pesquet were spacewalking outside the ISS, working to install the second of six new Roll-Out Solar Arrays on the 4B power channel — making the image extra special. It marked the duo’s third spacewalk in just two weeks to continue power system upgrades, as the current solar arrays, designed to last 15 years, have begun to show signs of degradation from over 20 years of use.
The spacewalk lasted six hours and 45 minutes. It marked the fifth spacewalk for Kimbrough and Pesquet working together, as well as the ninth for Kimbrough and the fifth for Pesquet overall.
Last year, the ISS celebrated a major milestone: 20 years of continuous human presence. In that time, 244 people have spent time onboard, conducting nearly 3,000investigations.
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