NASA Photographer Sees International Space Station Cross the Sun

ISS solar transit
NASA photographer Joel Kowsky combined 10 frames combined create this composite image of the International Space Station — with six crewmembers aboard — transiting the sun at about five miles per second on Dec. 17, 2016. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! NASA photographer Joel Kowsky captured this composite view of the International Space Station — the largest manmade structure in space — as it crossed in front of the sun earlier this month. 

Kowsky was in Newbury Park, California and ready to photograph the station when it appeared to cross the face of the sun on Dec. 17 at mindblowing about 5 miles per second (that's 18,000 mph, or 28,968 km/h)! Ten of the images were then combined into a single composite to create this view of the station's silhouette moving across the sun. Such photos of solar transits typically take substantial planning ahead of time to pull off. [More Photos: Spotting Satellites from the Ground]

Because of the space station's immense size (it's as long as a football field), it can be easily spotted at night by stargazers with clear skies and who know when and where to look. But NEVER try to spot the space station crossing the sun with your unaided eye, as severe eye damage can result. Photographers and astornomers use special protective filters to safely observe the sun

You can find out where the space station is in the night sky with our handy Satellite Tracker widget here, courtesy of NASA also has a Spot the Space Station website that can help you find out when the space station will fly over your location. 

The space station is currently home to six Expedition 50 crewmembers: Americans Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson of NASA; Russians Andrey Borisenko, Sergey Ryzhikov, and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos; and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency. Expedition 50 began Oct. 30 and is scheduled to end March 4, 2017. 

During Expedition 50, the crew will perform biotechnological research, human research as well as Earth and space science. The expedition may include two spacewalks. 

Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original story posted on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.