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ISS astronauts in action, seen from Earth!

ISS astronauts: 2 astronauts in spacesuits working in bright sunlight outside ISS, labeled with their names.
View larger. | German amateur astronomer Sebastian Voltmer was on the ground when he captured this image of ISS astronauts Matthias Maurer and Raja Chari in space, on March 23, 2022. The 2 astronauts were working outside the International Space Station. Raja’s location is marked. See Matthias? Image via Sebastian Voltmer (@SeVoSpace).

ISS astronauts caught on camera

In a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime image, a German amateur astronomer captured not one, but two astronauts servicing the International Space Station during a spacewalk on March 23, 2022. He announced his achievement a few days later when he realized his image showed not just one ISS astronaut, but two.

Visible in the image are astronauts Matthias Maurer, a German materials scientist who was on his first spacewalk, and Raja Chari, a test pilot and member of NASA Astronaut Group 22.

Sebastian Voltmer holds a doctorate in scientific photography. He’s from Oberthal, a small town in Germany, which happens to be the hometown of Mattias Maurer. In fact, Voltmer and Maurer are friends. Voltmer released an early version of the image for publication by the local press and shared the image online. It caught the attention of veteran ISS photographer Philip Smith. Smith noticed Voltmer had not only imaged Maurer, but Chari as well. Voltmer described his excitement over the image when shared it via spaceweathergallery.com:

Due to my time constraints, I released this version right away on the internet, which then went viral. I continued to work on the final image version with both highlighted astronauts. Already two days after the spacewalk happened, Philip Smith contacted me. He is a world well-known photographer of all things ISS and has been published in many forms of media. Philip Smith with his ISS obsession, noticed on my picture that NASA astronaut Raja Chari is also detectable on the robot arm Canadarm2. And he created a wonderful combination picture shown here with an insert from the NASA livestream. I feel like I just made a once-in-a-lifetime image 🙂 It’s probably the first ground-based picture showing two spacewalkers on the ISS at the same time.

The spacewalk was Maurer’s first, an excursion to prep the exterior of the ISS for the installation of a third set of retractable solar panels. Maurer described his role during the spacewalk for a video preview from the ESA:

People joked, like bring your passport Matthias, because I will be wandering the entire space station almost. I will be near the American segment, the airlock and on the tress close to the solar arrays. I will be on top. I will be below. I will be outside here of this Columbus Module on the very forward right edge of the space station, then I will climb over to the bottom side of the Japanese module, which is on the very forward left side of the space station. So I will be all over the space station, and I am very excited and I am really looking forward to it.

NASA’s full stream of the spacewalk is available here.

Maurer wasn’t alone in looking forward to his foray. On the night of March 18, 2022, Voltmer imaged the ISS and shared a gif of the results on Instagram, predicting the incredible results he would achieve the following week:

Happy Birthday to ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer! Have a great party on the ISS ?? This video is my present for you (view & Cosmic Kiss song). I recently captured the video sequence through my telescope from your hometown.

I’m looking forward to take a pic of a man in space … of your spacewalk on Wednesday! Let’s coordinate that to catch your waving at the right moment ?

Cosmic Kiss is a song composed by Voltmer in honor of Maurer’s ISS mission.

In another image of the ISS taken the night of March 18, Voltmer described the amazing resolution he was able to achieve. Via Instagram:

Currently I was able to take this images of the International Space Station (ISS) under best viewing conditions (seeing) captured from the hometown of the ESA astronaut Dr. Matthias Maurer. The resolution of the images shows details around 20 cm. The docked SpaceX Dragon capsule, with which the current Crew-3 flew to the ISS, can be clearly seen. A wave from Matthias is likely to be spotted 400 km above his hometown of Oberthal, Germany, during his spacewalk on Wednesday.

To capture the image of Maurer and Chari, Voltmer stacked images captured from video footage of the ISS flyover. A video of Voltmer imaging the ISS on March 18, 2022, then processing the video into a high-resolution image is available on his YouTube channel.

Voltmer’s images of the ISS were shot using an off-the-shelf 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope from Celestron.

Bottom line: German amateur astronomer Sebastian Voltmer was on the ground when he captured this image of 2 ISS astronauts – Matthias Maurer and Raja Chari – in space, on March 23, 2022. The 2 astronauts were working outside the International Space Station.

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