'Guidoni's in there!'
When Italian science writer Franco Foresta Martin got back to Rome last Sunday evening (22 April), he was red-eyed, jet-lagged and exhausted. He had just flown in from New York after a tough few days covering global climate negotiations, and he should have gone straight to bed.
Instead, too tense to sleep, he sat in front of his computer. Just out of curiosity, he ran a program that tracks the orbits of artificial satellites. The International Space Station, he discovered, would be over Rome at precisely 20.37 that evening. He looked at his watch, then grabbed binoculars and a video-camera and raced for his balcony.
He was just in time to see the ISS as it raced across the sky from north-west to south-east at more than 8 kilometres second. "I thought, Guidoni's in there", says Martin. The station swept out of sight just one minute later -- which gave Martin just enough time to capture its image on his video-camera at full zoom. "The resolution is poor", he admits. "But you can distinguish the body of the station from its solar panels. And if you look at the three pictures together, you can see the station rotate like a barbecue spit".
A pretty good effort.
If you want to photograph the ISS yourself, you don't need the special software used by Martin - he needs it to prepare satellite "timetables" for his column in Corriere della Sera, and is currently writing a book on "artificial astronomy" for young people. With much less effort you can find the station's exact position at anytime . If you can do at least as well as Martin did, send your best shots to Contact ESA . You could see them on ESA Guidoni highlights