Image: Amateur Astronomers Ping The International Space Station With A Laser

Early Sunday morning, at 01:27 our time, the San Antonio Astronomical Association, an amateur astronomy group, succeeded in flashing the space station with a one-watt blue laser and a white spotlight as we passed overhead. This took a number of engineering calculations. Projected beam diameters (assuming the propagation of a Gaussian wave for the laser) and intensity at the target had to be calculated.

Tracking space station's path as it streaked across the sky was another challenge. I used email to communicate with Robert Reeves, one of the association's members. Considering that it takes a day, maybe more, for a simple exchange of messages (on space station we receive email drops two to three times a day), the whole event took weeks to plan.

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