Streaks in space! ISS astronaut's incredible timelapse photos highlight ghostly solar panels and lovely star trails

an astronaut on the space station with the background blurry behind him
NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick captures himself moving through the International Space Station in a photo posted June 28, 2024. (Image credit: Matthew Dominick/NASA/X)

The space station is always in motion, but only rarely does orbital photography bring that movement to our screens on Earth.

International Space Station (ISS) astronaut Matthew Dominick has an ongoing series of photos on social media showing life on the move in space. The NASA astronaut, in his limited spare time between Expedition 71 duties, regularly transmits timelapse photos from the orbiting laboratory.

"Zooming through the lab on ISS," Dominick recently posted on X, formerly Twitter, with an epic selfie showing himself moving through the U.S. Destiny module. He also takes images looking out the windows of the ISS, while "experimenting with long exposures," he says. For photography buffs, he even includes ISOs and exposure times.

Two recent photo stacks showed star trails surrounding the solar panels of the ISS. "In the last of five 30-second exposures, the sun cracked the horizon, creating the brilliant blue on the service module solar arrays," Dominick wrote on X. "5 stacked images, 24mm, f4, ISO 800."

Related: See Earth's atmosphere glow gold in gorgeous photo taken from the ISS

The International Space Station with the glow of Earth below, in a timelapse photo stack. Above are star streaks. The photo series was posted by NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick on June 25, 2024. (Image credit: Matthew Dominick/NASA/X)

"Lots of test shots are taken trying to find the best part of the orbit for lighting and angles to create images like the one above," Dominick added in another post. "Some of the test shots turn out interesting. In this one, the solar array moved during the shot."

A ghostly view of an International Space Station solar panel moving above Earth, in a timelapse photo posted June 25, 2024 by NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick. (Image credit: Matthew Dominick/NASA/X)

Another of the photo series shows what Earth looks like with different exposure times. "There are guidelines for shooting astrophotography from earth but what happens when shooting at orbital speeds? Thread shows images with 6400 ISO, f1.4, and exposures ranging from 10s to 1/4s," Dominick wrote on X.

Dominick's photos have been catching attention from professional and amateur space photographers alike, and he has been answering some questions about how he takes the shots.

"Different windows do have different optical qualities," he said in one X thread. "We have a window in the laboratory that is designed for photos of earth. It stares straight down." He added that he had recently used a window from the docked Boeing Starliner spacecraft, which has a good location despite being "not designed for astrophotography."

Assisting the astronauts' photography are not only windows, but "mechanical arms that clamp to parts of the space station on one end and hold the camera on the other end," Dominick told another poster.

Dominick has received photography training along with other astronauts, but emphasized to another person that he is always eager to add to his skills. "If you have ideas/thoughts shoot them my way," he urged. "I'm learning as I go up here."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon:

  • motie
    Does the window glass filter out the sun's UV? Is he up high enough that cosmic rays become a problem?