Space Station Streaks Across Pleiades Star Cluster in Striking Amateur Photo
This image shows the International Space Station passing over Pisa, Italy with the blue Pleiades Star Cluster shining in the background. Giuseppe Petricca sent this image to Space.com on Feb. 10, 2014.
Credit: Giuseppe Petricca

The International Space Station streaks through the night sky over Pisa, Italy, as the bright blue Pleiades star cluster glitters in the background in this amazing photo recently submitted to Space.com.

Amateur astronomer Giuseppe Petricca took this image of the Pleiades star cluster, which is also known as M45. It is an open star cluster formed about 100 million years ago and its brightest stars glow a hot blue color. Scientists estimate the young, recently formed stars in the cluster will burn out quickly, likely in the next 200 million years.

"It's always a waypoint in the winter skies, opening the way from Perseus to Orion," photographer Petricca said of Pleiades in an email to Space.com. "But, yesterday, above Pisa, Italy, the International Space Station made a beautiful passage, and it crossed next to the cluster." [See more amazing February night sky photos by stargazers]

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Petricca took this photo with a Nikon Coolpix P90 Bridge on a tripod (ISO 200, f5.0, 8" exposition). The long white streak of the passing space station is due to an exposition of 8" seconds at its peak magnitude of -3.3 on the brightness scale used by astronomers.

The Pleiades cluster is a group of 800 stars located in the constellation Taurus, about 410 light-years from Earth. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by Space.com readers, visit our astrophotography archive.

Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

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Though they look serene and silent from our vantage on Earth, stars are actually roiling balls of violent plasma. Test your stellar smarts with this quiz.
Open Star Cluster Messier 50
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Star Quiz: Test Your Stellar Smarts
Though they look serene and silent from our vantage on Earth, stars are actually roiling balls of violent plasma. Test your stellar smarts with this quiz.
Open Star Cluster Messier 50
0 of questions complete