Astrophotography is one of the greatest technological innovations. It allows us to see detailed images of space, celestial bodies, the Milky Way, and other galaxies. Astrophotography is also a passion for many. One such photographer is Andrew McCarthy, based in Sacramento, California. Two days ago, at 2.44 am PST, he was recording a video using his telescope and camera of the International Space Station (ISS) crossing the moon when he noticed something odd.
McCarthy planned to capture the ISS crossing the moon, but the images he recorded, startled him. Initially, he looked at the frames and felt that the ISS was missing the solar panel arrays. However, he soon realised that it was not the case and that the arrays were turned at a different angle. Even that puzzled him.
“Half the solar arrays appear to be missing at first glance. That’s because despite being in a configuration requiring them to be face on towards Earth (also the direction of the sun) half of the arrays are seen edge-on. So why is this happening?” McCarthy tweeted, with the picture he took.
What McCarthy didn’t know then (but later found out) was that the ISS was amid upgrades on the solar arrays. This is why they were turned at an angle which made them invisible to the photographer.
At 2:44am this morning, I positioned myself so the ISS would pass between the moon and I to get this picture. What I didn't expect- was for the ISS to look so much different than usual. #astrophotography #space #opteam pic.twitter.com/QBrn1tBE5C
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) February 28, 2021
On January 11, this year, NASA reported that the existing ISS solar array pairs that have been in operation since December 2000, with additional pairs delivered in 2006, 2007 and 2009, are showing signs of wear. New arrays, smaller in size, but with updated technology, will be placed before six of the eight existing arrays. The addition of the arrays will increase the power output of the ISS from 160 kilowatts to 215 kilowatts.
Two spacewalks were scheduled to complete the installation of the new arrays. The first step is that of installing the modification kits to prepare the operation site. The second step will be the installation itself. McCarthy ended up documenting the first step.