Entries tagged as Tiangong

Tiangong Space Station seen in day and night

Tiangong Space Station in front of the Moon on February 8, 2022 (Click for full size)

Tiangong is a Chinese space station which was initially launched on April 29, 2021. It is built upon the experience gained from its preceding prototypes, Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2. It only has the core module (Tianhe) at the moment, but two additional modules (Wentian and Mengtian) are planned to be added this year. Because Tianhe is much smaller and simpler than the ISS, I wasn't sure what to expect when photographing it. Once I did catch it crossing in front of the Moon, I noticed that it looked longer and resembled a candy in a wrapper. That was due to the cargo spacecrafts Tianzhou 2 and Tianzhou 3 docked to the ports.

Tiangong Space Station in front of the Sun on February 10, 2022 (Click for full size)

To see the solar panels on the space station and the spacecrafts, I needed to observe it crossing in front of the Sun. Fortunately, a sighting opportunity took place just two days later and I was able to get a good look. Both the large panels on the core module and the smaller ones on the spacecrafts were visible.

Tiangong Space Station zoomed in at night and day

With the shots zoomed in and stacked, you can see the individual parts more clearly. The length of the object is about 38 meters (Tianhe: 16.6m, Tianzhou: 10.6m each), which came out to be about 30 pixels long when I shot it on February 8 at 413km away. This is roughly 1/3 the size of the ISS. If there were no spacecrafts docked, it would have looked much smaller and less distinct. On February 10, it was 576km away, so it came out to be smaller at about 20 pixels. I may be able to get larger Sun-crossing shots in Summer when the maximum altitude of the Sun is higher.

Device: Nikon P1000
Settings: 3000mm - f/8 (ISO 800 - 1/800s / ISO 200 - 1/1250s)
Filters: None
Time: 2022-02-08 19:03:59 / 2022-02-10 12:11:53 KST
Location: Haenam / Gangjin, Korea
20 / 23 video frames processed with Pixelmator Pro 2.3.5
10 / 14 video frames stacked with RegiStax

Last look of Tiangong-1 with Iridium 80

Tiangong-1 (top left) and Iridium 80 (center) seen in the northern sky

Tiangong-1, the first Chinese space station, is set to fall back to Earth around April 2. Its orbit had been slowly decaying since its service was ended in 2016. I found out that it would be visible for one last time in the sky this morning, so me and my daughter Celine decided to witness its streak. I set up my iPhone X on a tripod and placed it on the window facing north. Then I launched NightCap Camera app in satellite capturing mode.

Shortly after 5:30AM, Tiangong-1 made its bright (-0.6 magnitude, 181km altitude) appearance from the west, streaking towards east and quickly dimming. Just as it disappeared from our eyesight, another bright flash appeared to the east of Polaris and then quickly disappeared. From my experience I knew that was an Iridium flare. CalSky website verified it to be Iridium 80, showing up at 5:30:36AM with a magnitude of -2.0. We were very lucky to see the two together - since the space station will disappear in a couple of days it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the photo, you can see, starting from the top left and looking towards bottom right, the Tiangong-1, Polaris, Iridium 80, and the Cassiopeia constellation. Click on the image to see it in full size.

Device: iPhone X
Settings: 28mm - ISO 2112 - 61s - f/1.8
Filters: None
Date/Time: 2018-03-31 05:30:01 KST
Location: Naju, Korea

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