The International Space Station Transits Lone Supermoon of 2017: Gallery
Ken Kremer Space UpClose 8 Dec 2017TITUSVILLE, FL - In a rare confluence of nature and orbiting manmade space hardware, the International Space Station (ISS) transited the Moon this past Sunday night, Dec. 3 during the lone Supermoon of 2017 and at a very small and specific location along the Florida Space Coast in central Florida coincidentally accessible to meand a space journalist colleague.
Of course as with all astronomical events observed from the ground one also needs a fair amount of lucky clear weather.
Although it’s easy and common to see the ISS speeding across the sky at night near sunrise and sunset, lunar and solar ISS transits are uncommon and you have to be in the right location.
Using special predictive software we determined that the ISS would cross the Supermoon’s path in Titusville, Florida, just before midnight Sunday at 11: 50 PM EST - and at a place located just a few miles away from a very special place - NASA’s massive Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
This only Supermoon of 2017 is 7 percent bigger than a normal average full moon because the Moon was orbiting closer to the Earth at this time.
Since the predicted path of visibility was only 4.18 km we set up our camera gear withina few feet of the exact centerline - which passed through a very narrow swath of Titusville, FL and then continued eastwards to Port Canaveral and out over the Atlantic Ocean.
And since the transit only lasted 0.58 seconds we had to have our timing and location as precise as possible, and photo gear ready to go.
Because literally in the blink of an eye – it’s all over!
There are no second chances and this was our first ever opportunity.
The ISS was traveling at a speed of 17500 mph at an altitude of 263 miles (421 km) at that very moment.
Well just in the nick of time the partly cloudy skies cleared and myself and colleague JeffSeibert gathered a few clear still images and a high resolution video.
In fact the ISS transit was over so fast we never actually saw it pass by in real time - only observing it later when checking our output and hoping for something, anything.
Enjoy our gallery of still images herein.
ISS Transits Super Moon Over Titusville, Florida Dec 3, 2017. Credit: Jeff Seibert
The ISS huge pair of solar panels at either end are easily visible along with the pressurized modules and backbone truss seen in between.
The ISS is the size of a football field.
ISS angular size during the transit was only 65.53′′; Angular separation: 24.9′; azimuth: 122.0°; altitude: 73.3°
Since KSC is the spot from which Americans first orbited the Earth and voyaged to the Moon for the first manned lunar landing in 1969 it holds a special place in the heart of allspace enthusiasts.
So the opportunity to see the ISS pass in front of a Supermoon anywhere near KSC is super special !
Furthermore the S.S Gene Cernan cargo freighter from Orbital ATK was also still berthed at the ISS during Sunday’s high speed supermoon transit.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft was christened the “S.S. Gene Cernan” and named in honor of NASA’s Apollo 17 lunar landing commander; Gene Cernan. He was the last man to walk on the Moon 45 years ago in December 1972.
The ISSis currently occupied by six people living and working aboard comprising the Expedition 53 crew.
They are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei and Commander Randy Bresnik, cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos, and European astronaut Paolo Nespoli of ESA.
Although this was the only Supermooon of 2017 you don’t have to wait long for another opportunity - it’s the first of a series of 3 in close proximity.
The next Supermoon is on Jan. 2, 2018 followed by Jan 31.
Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.