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  Orienting astronauts' photos taken in space

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Author Topic:   Orienting astronauts' photos taken in space
stsmithva
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From: Centreville, VA, USA
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posted 11-14-2008 02:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Seeing the Earthrise photo shown in its "proper" orientation (with the Earth on the left and the moon vertical on the right) made me wonder: how was that determined? If I take a photo of someone standing, it's pretty obvious that it's meant to be shown vertically with the feet on the bottom. But Anders was floating in zero-g, so there wasn't a ground to go by.

There are some photos taken of Ed White during his spacewalk, and other photos, that make me think the same thing: how did someone decide what should be the top and bottom of these photographs?

Jurg Bolli
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posted 11-14-2008 03:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We can define up as the direction of the north pole of the solar system, i.e. the horizon is defined as the plane in which the planets move (more or less).

heng44
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posted 11-15-2008 02:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recall reading somewhere that Anders has said about the orientation: "That is how I took it," making himself the frame of reference.

nasamad
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posted 11-15-2008 10:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for nasamad   Click Here to Email nasamad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With the Apollo 8 shot I think it is oriented with the horizon on the left, that would be "upright" in respect to the solar system wouldn't it?

The CSM had entered lunar orbit around the moon's "equator" by passing in front of the leading edge of the moon, so coming round the other side and seeing Earthrise it would be rising up with the horizon on the left.

Philip
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posted 11-16-2008 03:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jurg is right about the ecliptic plane but it isn't always used. Some EVA photos of astronauts/cosmonauts are mostly shown in a direction so You see the people upright. In space there's no up and down (remember the Mir space station where the ceiling and floor were painted in other colors than the right and left wall to provide some feeling of orientation).

Moreover for astronomy pictures, most are upside down due to the refractor lenses. So I guess, photos are shown in the most convenient way where possible...

ilbasso
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posted 11-16-2008 02:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Photos taken with amateur telescopes also have the problem of being reversed left to right if one uses a diagonal prism between the telescope and camera.

For the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo, if we looked at this as from a space probe like Cassini, then we would usually put north at the top, and since this was a pre-1st quarter moon, then the Sun would have been to the left (west on Earth) and the illuminated portion of the Earth should be on the left hand side of the photo. I think, though, that what seems most natural to us is "ground below, sky above", so that the moon being laid out across the bottom of the photo is what "feels right."

Adding to the confusion is that the Apollo orbits around the moon went in the other direction from those around the earth. Looking down on the moon's north pole, the Apollo capsules went around in a clockwise manner. Earth satellites go around in a counterclockwise fashion as seen from above the north pole. So, in lunar orbit, the Earth was seen to rise above the "wrong" horizon from what we would normally expect (at least for those of us who are used to risings and settings seen from the northern hemisphere).

[rant] I get driven crazy by time-lapse movies of "sunrise" on TV when it's clear that it's a sunset movie being shown in reverse (unless it was taken from the southern hemisphere). North of the Tropic of Cancer, facing east at sunrise, the sun will ALWAYS move up and to the right. Facing west at sunset, the sun moves from upper left to the lower right.

And don't get me started on movies with reversed pictures of full moons, or the moon obviously from a shot that was taken by Apollo spacecraft leaving the moon. [/rant]

contra
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posted 11-17-2008 03:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for contra   Click Here to Email contra     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So the Apollo 11 photo of the returning LM should be like this, right?

ilbasso
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posted 11-17-2008 07:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, that would be the north=up orientation.

spaced out
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posted 11-17-2008 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
North=up is not really a rule you can apply to all photos taken in space, or even in orbit.

I think the most natural way to orient a photo taken by a person in zero-G is simply to stick to the way the person taking the picture chose at the time they captured the image.

As far as I know the cameras were always held the same way to take photos (not like 35mm cameras where you sometimes turn the camera 90 degrees for portraits etc), which means the orientation on the film roll always reflects the angle the photo was taken.

If Anders took his Earthrise photo with the Earth to the left and the lunar surface on the right then that's the 'correct' orientation for that particular shot. However, if people prefer to view it with the lunar surface at the bottom they're free to do so. There's not really a wrong way or right way to view it.

stsmithva
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posted 11-17-2008 10:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaced out:
As far as I know the cameras were always held the same way to take photos (not like 35mm cameras where you sometimes turn the camera 90 degrees for portraits etc), which means the orientation on the film roll always reflects the angle the photo was taken.
Really? I'm not sure I understand that. If, as I believe, the cameras took only square pictures, I can see the astronauts not turning them 90 degrees to get a better shot of something as we do with rectangular photos — EXCEPT that they were often floating free in zero-G, with no floor/ground to go by.

That's where figuring out their intentions gets complicated, and why I wonder how orientation gets assigned.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-17-2008 10:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by stsmithva:
...that they were often floating free in zero-G, with no floor/ground to go by.
There may not be a physical floor in orbit, but there is a mental one: the one by which the astronauts trained. Most astronauts say that by default, the orientation that they train in is the one they adopt in space.

ilbasso
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posted 11-17-2008 01:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thinking about the different flight direction of the spacecraft orbiting around the moon vs around the earth, I found myself wondering if the astronauts had to adjust their mental orientation about which direction they were traveling. My guess is that it didn't make much difference to them, since the spacecraft are often pointed in directions other than the velocity vector. I think it's illustrative of the problem that those of us who are stuck to living on a 2-dimensional plane have when we try to project what it would be like to be on a spacecraft where all of those cues we grew up with (including gravity) are completely changed.

spaced out
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posted 11-17-2008 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by stsmithva:
If, as I believe, the cameras took only square pictures, I can see the astronauts not turning them 90 degrees to get a better shot of something as we do with rectangular photos...
The cameras took square images but I'm sure the position of the controls for the operation of these cameras — shutter release, etc. — almost certainly meant they were always held by the astronaut in the same way when in use.

nasamad
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posted 11-17-2008 04:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for nasamad   Click Here to Email nasamad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was under the impression that there were some 35mm cameras taken onboard flights, the Apollo 17 crew definitely took one.

spaced out
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posted 11-17-2008 04:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The vast majority of images (and I'm sure the images most people are talking about) were taken with Hasselblad cameras.

The 35mm camera used for some on-board photography on Apollo 17 is a different case. Of course that was used in landscape and portrait mode as is natural with a regular camera. You can see from the photos they took that the crew was having fun with the whole zero-g 'no right-way-up' thing.

John Charles
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posted 11-17-2008 07:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Charles     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Shall we agree then to display out-of-the-window pictures from all low Earth orbiting vehicles with north at the top, too? It will be easy for Mercury, Gemini, most shuttles, and Apollos 7 and 9, because they were in 28-degree inclination orbits (more or less), so we wouldn't go too far wrong just making the visible horizon run top-to-bottom instead of left-to-right as is almost always the case to date. But the pictures from high-inclination missions, including Skylab, ASTP, Mir and ISS, will take a little more finesse, being canted at some almost-vertical angle.

Or we could opt for a convention that defines the center of the body one is orbiting as "down" and make the horizon run left-to-right, just like it does in our everyday lives.

And if Bill Anders wants to correct the image orientation based on his personal experiences, well, he has earned the right to be unconventional by actually having taken the picture that started this discussion.

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