True The International Space Station travels for three minutes over Indianapolis in six 30-second exposures. Alex Farris
On the off chance that 'Gravity' really happens | Alex Farris Photo Blog
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2013.10.14
I remember a few nights of star-gazing very well. One night in 1997 (for a great many nights, really), I could look out my west-facing bedroom window and see Comet Hale-Bopp, its white and blue tails of Sun-smoked ice and dust dazzling me to no end. The star-spangled sky over the Boundary Waters, of course, scared me back into my tent for four days before I could spend half of my last night there marveling at its vastness. And one very early morning in elementary school, my dad and I (I don't remember if my brother was there) watched the space shuttle chase the International Space Station across the sky before docking with it.

The memories have been embellished, of course, as all memories have been; but still, I smile when I remember those nights. The reminders that we live, as Carl Sagan put it, on "a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena," have stuck with me and help me to cherish our existence here while keeping me from giving it galactic import. Every chance I get, I look up and marvel at how much we've explored and how startlingly much we still have left to explore.

Last week, my attention turned to the International Space Station. I had watched Gravity on its opening weekend with my dad and sister, so the orbiting global cooperative was already on my mind. My dad had found its path over our speck of Earth on a NASA website (still functioning on what was day two of the partial shutdown). I set my camera on top of my car, steadied it with my rigid camera bag, and took the six 30-second exposures you see below (presented as both a flattened .jpg file and as an animated GIF).

Keep looking up.

Flip the light switch
The International Space Station travels for three minutes over Indianapolis in six 30-second exposures. The International Space Station travels for three minutes over Indianapolis in six 30-second exposures. Alex Farris
The International Space Station travels for three minutes over Indianapolis in six 30-second exposures. The International Space Station travels for three minutes over Indianapolis in six 30-second exposures. Alex Farris

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