The International Space Station flies above the Colosseum in Rome – 19 July 2018

We have been tracking the International Space Station (ISS) quite a lot, recently. Imaging its bright passes above the famous monuments of Rome is always rewarding, but when the legendary Colosseum is involved, it is simply unique.

The International Space Station crosses the sky above Rome, embracing the Colosseum - 19 July 2018

The International Space Station crosses the sky above Rome, embracing the Colosseum – 19 July 2018

Last 19 July, we had one of those events, with the the ISS going to shine very bright (apparent magnitude: -3.3) and crossing a huge portion of sky. I managed to find a place in Rome from where the ISS could be seen above something special.

Looking at the ISS orbit, I could identify the Colosseum as a stunning option, provided I could find a suitable place to setup my imaging hardware and handle the very wide path of the spacecraft in the sky. I decided to use the widest, rectilinear lens I have, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM: it is a superb optics and it was able to cover almost the entire pass.

The problem, at this point, was the place from where to image. It had to look at North-West, assuming the details of the ISS pass I was considering. It was clear that, if I wanted the Colosseum in my images, I had to setup my gear near the Celio Park. I went there, finding a suitable place, though it was not ideal: the local tram was going back and forth, producing vibrations and making a bit unsafe my stay there.

I finally found the right spot and prepared everything. Pointing the extreme lens I mentioned above is not straightforward, as you have to perfectly level the camera to exploit its rectilinear features. At the same time, I wanted to keep streetlamps away, of course preserving as much as possible the coverage of the ISS track. At last, I did find the best compromise.

As always, I planned a time series, with images taken back to back, during the entire expected duration of the transit. While the camera was imaging, I could enjoy the ISS transit with my own eyes: no matter how many times, you saw it, but it is always a fascinating sight and having the Flavian Amphitheatre in sight was splendid. The Space Station crossed a famous portion of the sky, too, involving both the Big and Small Dippers.

Putting together all the useful images, I ended with the result above. I love looking at it, seeing stars and constellations, the ISS trail and, of course, the legendary Colosseum below.

I hope you like it, too, and that it will motivate you to go out and look up at the stars!

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