Astrophotographer captures extraordinary footage of the ISS flying in front of the sun

Miguel Claro is a renowned professional photographer, author, and science communicator based in Lisbon, Portugal. He specializes in creating breathtaking images of the night sky, with a focus on astronomical “Skyscapes” that bridge the connection between Earth and the cosmos. As a European Southern Observatory Photo Ambassador, a member of The World At Night, and the official astrophotographer of the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, Claro’s work is highly regarded in the field.

On June 2, 2024, Claro captured a rare and spectacular moment – the silhouette of the International Space Station (ISS) as it transited in front of the sun’s disk from Figueira da Foz, northern Portugal. The transit occurred at a distance of 274 miles (441.5 km) from Earth and at a speed of approximately 4.5 miles per second (7.31 km/s). Although the transit lasted only 0.54 seconds, Claro was able to capture it using a fast video camera from Player One Astronomy, the Apollo-M Max, with a shutter set to an high speed frame rate of 109 images per second.

The image shows the ISS’s distinct structures, including its solar panels and modules. In addition, it offers a detailed view of jets of gas on the sun’s outer atmosphere, a large gas filament, a large active region (or sunspot), and several solar prominences around the sun’s limb. The sun, with a diameter of 865,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers), is primarily composed of 73% hydrogen, 25% helium, and 2% heavier elements.

The ISS completes an orbit around Earth every 90-93 minutes and spans 358 feet (109 meters) in width. Despite its size in the sky, with an angular diameter of 62.58″, it appears very small compared to the sun, which has an angular size of 31.6′. This makes the sun appear about 30.3 times larger than the ISS in the photo.

Claro is an independent artist, and the image of the ISS transiting the sun’s disk is available for purchase as a print or wall decoration. Interested individuals can explore different sizing options and print types on his website, or contact him for further assistance. He plans to release a limited edition Print Drop in the future, and those who sign up for his newsletter will have early access.

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