A Picture From Space

AstroSamantha Greets TNG

A group of astronomers from TNG takes pictures of the wake of the International Space Station at the same time that Samantha Cristoforetti photographs the island of La Palma (Canary Islands), where the largest Italian telescope is located.
The International Space Station (ISS) is the human outpost orbiting the Earth at a height of some 400 kilometers. The Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (TNG), a symbol of the Italian technology and research, is located in La Palma a small island of the Canarian archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, 4000 kilometers from Italy. These two trenches of science have looked at each other across the distance, and immortalized that moment. Since November 23 last year, Samantha Cristoforetti, an astronaut with the European Space Agency, is onboard the International Space Station. A group of seven astronomers from TNG have had the idea of symbolically shaking hands with his compatriot Samantha taking advantage of her first transits in the sky over the TNG. The project could be summarized as, “Samantha takes a picture of TNG, and the TNG staff take a picture of her.”

And Samantha enthusiastically accepted the offer. So the astronomer loaded their equipment, tripods and cameras, and headed to Roque de Los Muchachos at 2400 meters above sea level, where is located the TNG. Upon finding the exact times of transits, determining the best locations on the mountain to immortalize this meeting of the ISS and the TNG, and taking three sets of shots, selected the photos they liked the most and beamed them up to Samantha, together with a photo of the the group.
The ISS, appearing as a dot as bright as Venus in the skies above the TNG, has left suggestive images in the few minutes that it was in sight. Emilio Molinari, director of the Telescope said, “It’s been a way of sharing the sky of our Earth with someone special, with an ‘astro-colleague’ who is traveling across this field of stars that we watch every night. For once, one of these stars has watched us.”
Having the coordinates in hand, knowing the moments and the position of the ISS on the Canary Islands, Samantha has done the same. Early in the evening of March 26, she has immortalized the island of La Palma where on the crater rim of the Caldera de Taburiente, one of the most important astronomical observatories in the world is located, the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory the TNG is a part of. Looking at them all from its highest point, the Mirador del Roque de Los Muchachos, the TNG looks like a white mushroom with the other fourteen telescopes, by the sea of clouds and with the Atlantic in the horizon. Now, for one night, it has been the focus of Samantha’s camera.

Preparation phase to observe ISS track.
Credits: Vincenzo Guido/FGG-TNG

ISS track in the six shots by the TNG astronomers. Moon, Venus, Mars and Uranus, C/2014 Lovejoy comet, M31 and M33 galaxies, Pleiades and some clusters are visible. The pictures have been sent to the ESA italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Credits: FGG-TNG.

The FGG-TNG group involved in the mission. From left to right: Massimo Cecconi, Marco Pedani, Sabrina Masiero, Manuel Gonzales, Emilio Molinari, Vincenzo Guido and Gloria Andreuzzi. Crediti: FGG/TNG

Samantha Cristoforetti’s La Palma Island pictures. Green-red airglow, due to Oxigen OI above 100km, is well visible with the stars.
The fluidynamic paths appearing around the Canary Islands are called Kármán vortex streets. Credits: Samantha Cristoforetti/NASA/ESA/ASI.

Four of the seven main islands of the archipelago. Clouds cover most of the eastern side of La Palma (the upper left one), the well known phenomenon due to the trade winds which contribute to the cloud formation. The green dot shows the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (TNG) position. Credits: Samantha Cristoforetti/NASA/ESA/ASI.

Samantha Cristoforetti announced this nice experience by a tweet:
"Hello #CanaryIslands and Galileo Telescope! Galileo observes space and finally space observes Galileo!"

Thank you Samantha ! You are welcome to visit us here at TNG! The same invite to everybody, of course!

@AstroSamantha #Canarie
Samantha Cristoforetti
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