On 8 June 2004, like many others around the world, Tomáš Maruška from Bratislava in Slovakia, captured images of the Venus transit. Few of the images of this unusual astronomical event will have been as unique as those taken by Tomáš – his images also show the International Space Station (ISS) passing in front of the Sun.
Astrophotography enthusiast Tomáš, patiently assisted by his wife, Gitka, and Zuzka their 7-year-old daughter, captured the dual ISS/Venus transit pictures from his uncle's garden in Stupava, a small village to the north of Bratislava.
A few weeks ago, looking at predictions on Thomas Fly's ISS transit website, Tomáš was interested to read that ISS would also pass across the Sun at the time of the Venus transit. Not reading the website carefully, he believed that the ISS transit would only be visible from neighbouring countries and put it out of his mind.
However, just one day before the event, alerted by Fly's email notification service, Tomáš got a big surprise upon discovering that the ISS transit would in fact be visible from a site just a few kilometres to the north of his home in Bratislava. This was a chance not to be missed.
Using Earth path predictions made by Arnold Barmettler and published on CalSKY.com, Tomáš discovered that the centreline of the narrow 4.5 kilometre-wide corridor, from where the dual transit could be viewed, passed right through the village of Stupava.
On the morning of 8 June, after checking and re-checking his equipment that he had set up the evening before in his uncle Marian's garden, he began taking pictures of the Venus transit. All the time thinking forward to the ISS transit, "Will it fly exactly as predicted? Will something go wrong with my equipment? Will I see this extremely short event?"
Small black dot
Just after 12:09 CEST, Tomáš started recording a video sequence. "My wife held a shield over me and the display. Just 12 seconds later I saw a small black dot pass across the display. I realised right then that I had obtained a unique picture and video of the event."
John Locker an ISS transit enthusiast from England, also played his part by trying to alert as many people as possible to the fact that there would be a dual transit, in the hope that someone somewhere would be able to capture an image. "This is an amazing success for Tomáš, and also a testament to the precision of the calculations done by Thomas Fly and Arnold Barmettler. It is fantastic that someone managed to catch the event."
See the ISS
Thanks to its large solar wings the International Space Station is one of the brightest 'stars' in our night sky. Under the right conditions the ISS can be seen with the naked eye - providing you know in which direction to look. The best time for ISS-gazing is just before dawn or just after sunset, when the observer is in the dark but the ISS is in the Sun.
To find out whether the ISS is visible from where you live, visit http://www.esa.int/seeiss and fill in the name of your town.