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Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Catch a flying 'star'
ISS, John Locker

There goes Piers Sellers, the third British-born astronaut to get into orbit.

This image of the International Space Station (ISS) was captured from the ground in the UK as the platform flashed over the country on Wednesday evening.

Dr Sellers had only just arrived at the orbital outpost - a visiting "construction worker" on board the shuttle Atlantis.

The picture was taken by John Locker, a satellite enthusiast and consultant in northwest England, using a webcam attached to an eight-inch (20 centimetres) telescope.

Short movie

John told BBC News Online: "It's an interesting picture because we have Piers Sellers up there at the moment. It's great to have a Briton in space."

Sellers, AFP
Piers Sellers is the third British-born astronaut to go into orbit and only the second to "walk" in space
John tracked the ISS by hand, which is quite a feat.

The platform travels at about 27,000 kilometres per hour at an altitude of 390 km. Although far higher than a jet plane, it moves across the sky very rapidly - from horizon to horizon in little more than three minutes.

John even managed to keep the cross-hairs of the viewfinder locked on to the station long enough to make a mini-movie (visit his website in the links on the right of this page).

Main modules

"It is a bit like clay pigeon shooting; you've got to be just ahead of the little dot in the sky. It's moving very fast. Out of the three-minute pass, I got about 40 useable frames. What you see is one of the frames enlarged.

"It's also very bright; you've got to drop the exposure to 1/500th of a second or you lose all the detail - it burns out.

"Ok, it's an eight-inch telescope, but it is nothing desperately special. The camera is a simple 30 webcam, not a 600 CCD camera.

The image shows up some of the station's main components, including the large bank of solar panels across the middle and the Soyuz capsule which would act as a "lifeboat" for the resident crew if something went seriously wrong on the platform.

Building work

Dr Piers Sellers, now officially a US citizen but who comes originally from Crowborough in East Sussex, is playing a key roll on the latest shuttle mission to the ISS.

He and colleague Dave Wolf are working outside the platform to fit a new girder, or truss, to extend the station's backbone.

The Atlantis crew will remain at the ISS for the next week, returning to Earth on 18 October.

Technical details for main picture: Image taken at 1816 GMT on 9 October, 2002; (hand guided) Meade LX90 8-inch telescope; ToUcam web camera; 1/500th sec; 5 frames per second.

ISS, BBC
The arrow marks the new girder being fitted to the ISS
 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"The fulfilment of a childhood dream for Piers Sellers"
The BBC's Jane Warr
"The space station is brighter than any star"
See also:

11 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
09 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
07 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
08 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
02 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
01 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
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