By Sonny Jones
See! High in the sky! It wasn’t a bird or a plane that brought Johnny Horne to the Clarkton School of Discovery parking lot on that hot, scorching Thursday afternoon, though, admittedly, it was a flying machine.
The former Fayetteville Observer photographer and amateur astronomer extraordinaire had traveled from his home in Stedman in hopes of capturing the International Space Station passing in front of the sun. Based on the spacecraft’s projected trajectory, the Clarkton School of Discovery parking lot was a perfect location. Who knew?
Johnny will be the first to tell you that there are no guarantees in astronomy. A cloud passing between the Sun and Earth at the wrong time means no video or photo, no matter how far you travel, how much gear you have, or how long it takes to set it up. He traveled the world taking images of eclipses, comets, stars and planets. He also traveled the world watching clouds and rain.
The window for Thursday’s event was about half a second, if that. The International Space Station travels at approximately 17,500 miles per hour and orbits Earth every 90 minutes. Add to that that we can’t actually see the ISS pass in front of the sun – after all, looking at the sun is frowned upon if you wish to keep sight – and the ship was gone in the blink of an eye, that’s really a shot in the dark, so to speak.
Johnny began his video at 1:15 p.m. The camera was attached to a filter-protected telescope that pointed directly at the sun. He stopped the video after three minutes. Did he get it?
He got into his SUV and watched the video. And look. And look.
SPOT! Let’s go ! Hit!
Back inside his home studio and backyard observatory, Johnny has assembled a multiple exposure stack of 15 images of the International Space Station passing in front of the sun you see above. It shows the trajectory of the spacecraft through the sun. Notice the craft’s eight solar wings, four on each side, sticking out. The black spots at the top and the one near the bottom are sunspots.
Sonny Jones can be contacted at [email protected]