Chasing the ISS with a Canon SX20IS

The International Space Station passed over my house this evening, about to dock with the STS-133 Discovery space shuttle. Though I wasn’t able to see the shuttle (I understand from tweets that it was very close), the ISS pass was pretty bright and lasted for a good few minutes. Fast moving cloud spoilt the first image where the ISS approached from the SSE. However the following three images I hope you’ll agree aren’t too bad despite the weather doing its best to spoil the view.


ISS Pass 1


Here the ISS (the long line, a 32 second exposure), left hand part of the line is passing over Betelgeuse and Bellatrix in Orion. Aldeberan can be seen up to the right and faintly, the Pleiades can be seen.


ISS Pass 2


In this second inage the ISS has passed Orion (whose distinctive outline can be seen on the right of the image) and is approaching Castor and Pollux in Gemini to the upper left.


ISS Pass 3


This final image shoes the ISS track partially obscured by cloud, just before it disappears from view.

I used my Canon SX20IS mounted on a Jessops photographic tripod, taken at ISO100, using CHDK to set a 32 second exposure, at f7.1. I used a two second delay to allow the camera shake to settle down before the shutter engaged. The images have had a small amount of post-processing applied to brighten the scenes slightly.

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3 thoughts on “Chasing the ISS with a Canon SX20IS

  1. I do not even know how I ended up right here, however I assumed this publish was good. I don’t know who you are however certainly you’re going to a well-known blogger in case you are not already 😉 Cheers!

  2. Hey, I have the same camera (SX20 IS) and recently received an astromaster 70az as a gift. It’s been a pain trying to find a proper setup to use my astromaster’s refractor scope for photography, even afocally. Can you help me out with what to look for? I’m going on a trip in january where there’s clearer skies than smoggy Sacramento and was wanting to take full advantage of it, lol. Thanks.

    • Hi Russell, to be honest I abandoned trying to hook up my SX20 to my Skywatcher 130 because the camera was too heavy to mount afocally and the camera lens moved too much when powering up/down to safely set it to a position where you had good focus.

      I have tried a mount which is a bit of a contraption where the camera is attached to the reflector ‘scope and uses the standard camera screw mount to attach it to a position to be used afocally, but this was too fiddly.

      So I’ve took a different approach to using the camera and simply mounted it on a standard camera tripod and used it to take timelapse shots of the night sky, where it is suitably dark. I use CHDK and an intervalometer script to temporarily ‘hack’ the camera and give it additional functions. Because the camera also has a great zoom, if you are in a suitably dark place you can still get some great astro shots.

      If you search for CHDK, you can download everything you need to an SD card: this is of course at your own risk but I’ve been using CHDK on my S2IS, SX20 and my new SX50 for several years and never had a problem.

      Good luck and I hope that helps!

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