The space science lab has been reoriented to allow astronauts Kate Robins and Victor Glover to exit and prepare solar arrays for future upgrades.
Astronomer Andrew McCarthy captured the image of the station, orbiting 400 km above Earth, while he was on the side of a road in Sacramento, California.
McCarthy said that this rare snapshot of the station, which he took at around 10:44 GMT on Monday, “instantly became one of my favorite shots.”
What made this image so remarkable was the orientation of the International Space Station at the time it was captured and the accuracy of McCarthy’s capturing of the space lab as it passed through the Copernicus crater on the moon, before it vanished.
This lunar impact crater can be seen using binoculars aimed slightly northwest from the center of the hemisphere facing the moon.
Solar panels, which are usually flat on each side of the station, were seen moving at different angles due to the space walk, adding to the uniqueness of the image.
McCarthy explained that he was able to obtain these unique details in his image and see the reconfiguration of solar arrays thanks to his knowledge of the mission that was broadcast live on the Internet by NASA.
This is one of the rare times when changes in structure can be easily observed from Earth.
In this image, you can see how the solar array has been reoriented so that the International Space Station crew can install new devices.
British astronaut Tim Beck commented on the photo’s post on Twitter, saying: “Congratulations on having this wonderful shot of my old home.”
McCarthy chose to take the photo on the side of a road in Sacramento, California, because the sky was clear.
“I didn’t expect to get this wonderful and rare shot of a mission happening above our heads. Moreover, in the photo, the International Space Station just so happens to be passing in front of my favorite crater of the moon, Copernicus. What a world.”
The International Space Station contains eight solar array wings, each designed to produce a total of 250 kilowatts of energy, the oldest of which was launched in 2000, and the last in 2009, all by now defunct space shuttles.
It is working well now, the oldest is 21 years old. New solar arrays will be placed in front of the old systems later this year, and they will be launched on SpaceX next June.