On the night of July 21st, 2022, at 21:24:41 UTC, telescopes at CastelGAUSS Observatory have captured an image of the International Space Station (ISS) passing over Europe.
The ISS was at an altitude of 420.9 km, speeding at 7.665 km/s at an azimuth of 15.9° and an elevation of 18.8° when viewed from CastelGAUSS Observatory.
The estimated magnitude of the station was 0.3, not a high value for the ISS, as it was about to enter Earth shadow just 50 seconds later, during one of the several sunsets the astronauts witness from orbit daily.
CastelGAUSS pointed its instruments towards the ISS as there was a special event happening during that time frame: a release of ten Russian CubeSats, during a 7 hour Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) of our astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, Flight Engineer and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, ISS commander.
The crew of the Extra-Vehicular Activity performed on July 21st, 2022 – Credit: NASA TV
This spacewalk is important as it is a rare event to see a joint EVA between Russian and non-Russian personnel, using Russian Orlan spacesuits.
Samantha Cristoforetti became the fourth European astronaut to conduct a spacewalk in a Russian spacesuit, but the first European to do it outside of the International Space Station. The spacewalk was also notable as it was the first Extra-Vehicular Activity ever performed by Samantha Cristoforetti.
The picture above is interesting as the spacewalk ended at 21:55 UTC, therefore both astronauts were outside the International Space Station during the image capture done by CastelGAUSS!
The image depicts the ISS passing over the Observatory, in the North-Eastern quadrant of the sky, the very bright trace on the left, and a very faint trace on the right part of the image, at a Western heading and at lower elevation (image is horizontally flipped). It is one of the deployed CubeSats that is lagging behind the Space Station. Telescope mount is counteracting Earth rotation, therefore stars appear as fixed points.
The CubeSats were deployed directly by hand by the two spacewalkers: every CubeSat set to be released was equipped with a practical big handle designed to be fixed to the safety tether and to allow a good grasp with the suit’s glove.
European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti during the preparation for the release of one of the Russian CubeSats Credit: NASA TV
Another curious event happened: after the seventh CubeSat was released by Cosmonaut Artemyev, the CubeSat hit one of the solar panels of the International Space Station.
It was really a soft bump, as the relative velocity between the two objects was really low.