The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the planet at a height of about 250 miles, making it barely visible to the naked eye. On a clear night, you might be able to spot a speck of light crossing the night sky – if the ISS happens to be passing over your patch of the planet. And with a bit of astronomical knowhow, you might even be able to snap the ISS as it passes in front of the Sun.
In these breathtaking photos taken by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky, you can see the ISS’ frame against the bright, yellow face of the Sun.
The first image is a composite of six different photographs, tracing the space station’s arc across the sky.
There are currently five people working and living on the ISS, including three US astronauts and two Russian cosmonauts.
The NASA photos were snapped on Wednesday, June 24.
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NASA said: “This composite image, made from six frames, shows the International Space Station, with a crew of five on board, in silhouette as it transits the Sun at roughly five miles per second, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, from Fredericksburg, Virginia.
“On board are Expedition 63 NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.”
The space station orbits the planet about 16 times a day, travelling at about five miles per second.
In other words, a single day on the ISS only lasts 90 minutes and the astronauts witness 16 sunsets and 16 sunrises every 24 hours.
On board are Expedition 63 NASA astronauts
On Friday, June 26, astronauts Behnken and Cassidy left the safety of the ISS to replace the space station’s batteries.
The batteries collect powers and keep the space station operational when it passes through Earth’s nightside.
The spacewalk began after 1.32pm BST (7.32am EST) when the astronauts powered up their spacesuits.
You can watch the spacewalk live online here, courtesy of NASA TV.
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NASA said: “Cassidy and Behnken will be removing existing nickel-hydrogen batteries and replacing them with new lithium-ion batteries that arrived on a Japanese cargo ship last month.
“The batteries store electricity for one pair of the station’s solar arrays, and the swap will upgrade the station’s power supply capability.
“The batteries store power generated by the station’s solar arrays to provide power to the microgravity laboratory when the station is not in sunlight as it circles Earth during orbital night.”
The spacewalk is the 228th spacewalk in support of maintenance and assembly.
The spacewalk is also the seventh venture into the vacuum of space for Behnken and Cassidy.
Behnken and Hurley arrived on the ISS on May 30 on the very first crewed flight of the SpaceX-built Dragon spacecraft.
The test flight marked the return of launch capabilities to US soil for the first time since the end of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011.
The Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission is expected to last until August after which the two astronauts will return back to Earth.
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