Patterico's Pontifications


Cool Photo

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:21 am

The Moon and the International Space Station.

From NASA.


  1. Ummm, I find it hard to understand from what position and what angle a picture would be made that shows the moon that large in the background of a picture of the Int. space station, which is in orbit around the earth.

    Maybe I haven’t seen enough space pictures. Any other comments?

    Comment by MD in Philly (3d3f72) — 2/3/2013 @ 11:49 am

  2. Magnification. From Earth the ISS looks like a bright star. I don’t know if they were two different images merged, but if you magnified the ISS to see the details as in the image above, the full moon would be huge indeed.

    Comment by Simon Jester (07b568) — 2/3/2013 @ 12:43 pm

  3. no cow jumps over
    add insult to injury
    no green cheese either

    Comment by Colonel Haiku (f1519c) — 2/3/2013 @ 1:13 pm

  4. Here is the explanation at Slate. I have not double checked it and cannot vouch for it.

    The Moon was about 404,000 kilometers (250,000 miles) away when this picture was taken, and is about 3470 km (2170 miles) in diameter.

    The ISS orbits the Earth at a height of 400 km (250 miles). That’s how far away it would be if it passed straight overhead, but for Hartnett it was at a 30° angle from the zenith (given the Moon’s altitude above the horizon at the time). If you remember your trig, that multiplies the distance by a factor of 1.15 (the distance roughly scales as the secant of the angle away from the zenith, if you’re playing along at home), so the ISS was actually about 460 km (290 miles) away at the moment this shot was snapped.

    The ISS is about 110 meters across. So let’s see. That makes the Moon about 31,500 times wider physically than the ISS, but 880 times farther away. That means it should be 31,500 / 880 = 36 times the size of the ISS in the picture. I measured it on my screen, and that’s almost exactly the ratio I got.

    That’s so cool. Math!

    Have at it.

    Comment by Patterico (0ccd7a) — 2/3/2013 @ 1:53 pm

  5. Thanks, P, for the info.
    Makes sense, the picture was taken relatively far away from the station at significant magnification as Simon said. (I assume from another satellite or previous shuttle run, above the atmosphere).

    Comment by MD in Philly (3d3f72) — 2/3/2013 @ 2:03 pm

  6. Years ago, during my first marriage, I told my wife that the paper said we would be able to see the space shuttle moving across the night sky at a particular time. So we went outside, and I nattered on, pontificating on how it might be dim, hard to see, etc.

    “Um,” said my non-science geek wife, “like that?” She pointed at a star brighter than Venus, moving across near zenith.

    “Yes,” I replied shortly. I rubbed her feet for an hour that night in recompense.

    Comment by Simon Jester (c8876d) — 2/3/2013 @ 2:09 pm

  7. This is a lie.

    There is actually a giant 100km long alien battle station orbiting the moon. After someone noticed it they came up with this cover story.

    The Truth is Out There!

    Comment by Kevin M (bf8ad7) — 2/3/2013 @ 3:01 pm

  8. Umm… that photo is a year old…

    “JSC2012-E-017827 (4 Jan. 2012) — The International Space Station can be seen as a small object in upper left of this image of the moon in the early evening Jan. 4 in the skies over the Houston area flying at an altitude of 390.8 kilometers (242.8 miles).”

    Still cool, though.

    Comment by Rusty Bill (e3b0ca) — 2/3/2013 @ 6:29 pm

  9. Looks like a Tie fighter to me.

    Comment by Jcw46 (eda37d) — 2/3/2013 @ 8:48 pm

  10. Umm… that photo is a year old…

    Yup. Per the Slate article I linked in the comments.

    As you say: still cool.

    Comment by Patterico (9c670f) — 2/3/2013 @ 11:47 pm

  11. Math Is Hard!

    Comment by redc1c4 (403dff) — 2/3/2013 @ 11:49 pm

  12. moons rock

    Comment by happyfeet (ce327d) — 2/4/2013 @ 7:14 am

  13. Greetings:

    A moon is a terrible thing to waste.

    Comment by 11B40 (68599a) — 2/4/2013 @ 5:54 pm

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