The International Space Station is the largest spacecraft humans have ever built. It’s a technological marvel. And yet, it looks like little more than a housefly silhouetted against our Moon.

That was my first impression, at least, after checking out these incredible images of the ISS transiting a waxing gibbous moon on September 25th. The photos was captured Purdue undergrad Trevor Mahlmann and former graduate student Max Fagin, two self-identified aspiring astronauts. If taking money shots of the ISS counts toward NASA’s application process, I’d say they’re both shoo-ins.

Everything about the shot was carefully planned. Mahlmann and Fagin figured out precisely when the ISS was set to cross in front of the Moon, and arrived at a previously scouted location (a cornfield in central Illinois) two hours early to get their telescopes set up and focused. A 14-inch telescope was outfitted with a Canon Rebel Camera set to video mode, while a six-inch scope paired with a Canon 7D Mark II set at a 10 frames-per-second capture rate.

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It was a lot of preparation, but the results were well worth it.

“I was [ecstatic],” Malhmann wrote in a blog post about the photo shoot. “Our calculations were perfect.”

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The image at the top is a still from the video, while the one below was taken with the Mk II:

Malhmann is proving himself quite the pro when it comes spying the space station from Earth. Last summer, he wowed us with a shot of the ISS whizzing across the sky like a shooting star—a shot that he captured from the window of a Southwest flight. Naturally, we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Correction 1/3: An earlier version of this article stated that both Mahlmann and Fagin are graduate students at Purdue.


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Image courtesy of Trevor Malhmann and reproduced with permission. Learn more about these photos on Malhmann’s website.