SPACE STATION VS. JUPITER: On March 31st, the International Space Station flew past Jupiter in the skies over Magurele, Romania. Maximilian Teodorescu photographed the near miss.
“The transit was predicted by Calsky,” says Teodorescu. “Together with my wife and her brother, we traveled 40 kilometers from home to be in exactly the right spot to see the space station fly in front of Jupiter. It turns out, we were about 100 meters off, and the ISS missed the giant planet.”
“Even so,” he says, “the view was spectacular.”
Teodorescu’s image illustrates the scale of the space station. Measuring more than 100 meters wide, the behemoth spacecraft orbiting Earth is an easy target for backyard telescopes on the ground below. If it had passed directly in front of Jupiter, it would have blotted out much of the planetary disk.
The image also shows that the ISS has a higher surface brightness than Jupiter. That’s because sunlight reflects easily from the station’s metallic surfaces–much more so than from Jupiter’s absorbing cloudtops. Indeed, sunlight glinting from the station’s solar arrays sometimes causes flares as bright as magnitude -8, more than 200 times brighter than the entirety of the giant planet.