Dutch photographer Albert Dros just wanted to capture some meteors against the Milky Way—instead, he accidentally captured the ISS’s orbit around the Earth.
On PetaPixel today, Dros writes about the experience. Over the weekend, he and a friend drove out to a relatively dark area of the Netherlands—though as you can see, in a densely developed country, it’s hard to escape light pollution—to capture some of the Perseid meteor shower and the Milky Way. During one 20-second exposure, Dros was shooting a portrait of his friend standing on a small hillock—that was when he noticed “some kind of star slowly moving and disappearing,” he says.
It wasn’t until he got home and asked for help from astronomy forums that he realized it was the ISS:
The time in the EXIF data of the photo and the position exactly matched with where the ISS was located at that time. That means I managed to make a self-portrait with the Milk Way, the Perseid shower AND the ISS all in a capture of only 20 seconds.
It’s an amazing coincidence, especially considering the time and care many photographers put into capturing the ISS on its orbit above us. Still, these shots aren’t uncommon: Earlier this summer, an aspiring astronaut managed to calculate where the ISS would be overhead while he sat in the window seat of an airplane—capturing beautiful images of the spacecraft as it arced over a wing.
Dros’ photo was entirely accidental—but as accidents go, it’s a beautiful one. He sent along the full photo below, but you can check out other, non-ISS-photombing shots in his PetaPixel essay or his Facebook.
Contact the author at kelsey@Gizmodo.com.