Photographer Captures ISS Passing Between Jupiter and Saturn

Last night, photographers and stargazers around the world were treated to the Great Conjunction, a event in which Jupiter and Saturn appeared closer to each other in the sky than they have for hundreds of years. Countless photos were undoubtedly snapped of the rare sight, but photographer Jason De Freitas captured a particularly lucky one a few days ago showing the ISS zipping between the two planets.

While Jupiter and Saturn appear close together in the sky once every 20 years or so, the last time they were as close as during The Great Conjunction was back on March 4, 1226, or 794 years ago.

While planning to photograph the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, De Freitas realized that he could also include the ISS in the frame.

“I had the incredible luck of figuring out I could see the path of the International Space Station travelling through the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction,” De Freitas says.

After a great deal of planning, on December 17th, De Freitas drove an hour — “quite a short distance in the scheme of things,” he says — to a location where everything would be aligned perfectly for his shot.

At around 9:54pm from Jellore Lookout in New South Wales, Australia, De Freitas pointed his Pentax 67 and Takumar 600mm f/4 at the planets and captured a 10-second exposure on Fujifilm Provia 100f film. The tracking was done with a Skywatcher NEQ6 equatorial mount.

The photo above is what resulted. Here’s a closer crop in which you can more clearly see the planets and Jupiter’s moons:

De Freitas also used a Nikon D750 and Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 to capture digital video of the event:

“Probably the most unique shot I’ve ever taken,” De Freitas says. “[S]omehow everything on the night worked out. Beyond thrilled with this one.

“The timing of this was down to the second and I still can’t believe I pulled it off.”

If you’re interested in a print of this remarkable photo, you can purchase one here.

Earlier this year, De Freitas shared an inside look at how he shoots astrophotography on medium format film (and occasionally 35mm film). You can also find more of De Freitas’ work on his website and Instagram.