We've all probably seen a photo of an astronaut inside the International Space Station (ISS). Astronauts take pictures all the time for us Earthlings. But a photographer just took a rare photo of astronauts aboard the ISS all the way from Earth!
Sebastian Voltmer, an award-winning German astrophotographer took the photo on March 23, 2022, with a telescope in his own backyard. It shows American astronaut Raja Chari and German astronaut Matthias Maurer on the outside of the space station during a six-hour spacewalk.
Voltmer said that this is the first ground-based picture to show two ISS astronauts spacewalking at the same time.
If you look closely, you can see Chari on top of the Canadarm2 robotic arm – a 17 metre (56 feet) long robotic arm aboard the ISS that helps astronauts perform maintenance checks and move heavy equipment! Maurer was just climbing out of the spacecraft as the image was captured. Another interesting fact? Voltmer took the photo in Sankt Wendel, Germany—which just happens to be Maurer's hometown, too. What perfect timing!
What is a spacewalk?
According to NASA, whenever an astronaut gets out of a vehicle while in space, it’s called a spacewalk. They’re conducted when the ISS needs some extravehicular maintenance (like fixing or installing special space equipment). This work keeps the spacecraft safe for the crew members aboard.
Usually spacewalks last five to seven hours, that’s like a full day at school!
But before astronauts step out of the spacecraft, they have to put on a special space suit called the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU). This protects them from the dangerous elements of space like solar and cosmic radiation, extreme temperature variations, and micrometeorite impacts! Once outside, the astronauts are tied to the ISS with a strong cable so they don’t float away.
Can we see the ISS from our own backyards?
Yes! Even though the ISS is 400 kilometres (about 248 miles) away from Earth, it’s still possible for us to see it with our own eyes without a telescope!
According to the Canadian Space Agency, when we look up to the sky at night, the space station will look like a big white dot. It sort of looks like a big airplane that moves super fast, except it doesn’t change direction or have flashing lights.
Usually, it is the brightest thing in the sky after the Moon, which means it’s bright enough to see in big cities.
Next time you're outside at night, take a look to see if you can find it (and give the astronauts a wave!).