This is what a magnitude -3.4 pass of the International Space Station almost directly overhead looks like. Well, not quite. It actually looks like a simple moving dot in the sky, barely distinguishable from an airplane save for the fact that it doesn't have flashing lights. And we all know a small, dim dot in a dark sky wouldn't photograph all that well. So instead I left the shutter open for exactly 44.4 seconds and this is the result.
I didn't intend to leave it open for 44.4 seconds. But I was late running out the door, so I spent a little too much time fumbling with the tripod and camera settings. Which didn't leave me a whole lot of time to precisely meter and lock in a set shutter speed. Hence the photo improv job that had me standing on a darkened sidewalk pointing my remote control at the camera and, in the absence of a methodically planned shot, trying to count seconds (badly) as I tried to guess (also badly) how much light was enough, too much, or just enough.
In the end, I think the shot sorta worked. And thanks to Twitter, I got to share it with some other folks in London, who in turn told their friends (sounds like Suave shampoo commercial, doesn't it?) who also ran outside and saw the magical dance in the heavens. Neat.
I use this site, heavens-above.com, to predict when the best passes will be in my area. If you're looking for a neat activity to share - with kids, friends, anyone - you could do worse than stare way up and wonder about the wonders high above us.
Your turn: What makes you wonder?
One more thing: What does this have to do with abstract? Everything. It weighs almost a million pounds, stretches a football field in length, flies around the earth at 28,000 km/h (which would get me to the TV station in, oh, 1.2 seconds) and is currently home to 6 astronauts/cosmonauts who stay there for up to 6 months at a stretch, protected from the ravages of space by some of the best technology humankind has yet devised. Yet from the average person's vantage point, it's a dot in the sky. As you stand alone on a darkened sidewalk, you have to squeeze your brain a whole lot to appreciate what it means as it silently marches through the sky. Sounds pretty abstract, doesn't it? Click here to share your own abstract Thematic vision.