NightPod helps astronauts take low-light photos on the ISS

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Grabbing a steady shot in the middle of the night is hard enough without a tripod when you're on Earth. How do the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) manage?

The NightPod situated in the Cupola module of the ISS.
(Credit: NASA)

The NightPod is a specially-designed camera mount that is used to stabilise long exposure shots. Taking photos from space requires the camera shutter to stay open for longer in order to gather as much light as possible. While camera shake or motion blur is easy enough to compensate for on Earth, space is another matter entirely.

Not only is the ISS itself moving incredibly quickly — 27,000 kilometres per hour — but the Earth is as well, which makes low-light photography particularly difficult. The NightPod consists of an electromagnetic camera mount that compensates for this natural motion by using a nodding action.

A view of Melbourne in 2012 captured by the NightPod.
(Credit: ESA/NASA)

According to NASA, the NightPod can accept the station's orbit and altitude, and automatically track a location on Earth, keeping it in focus. Automation means the setup can run independently for up to six hours.

Typically, the NightPod will have a Nikon D3S hooked up and a lens that matches the shooting situation. This image of Liège in Belgium was captured with an 180mm lens by the Expedition 34 crew.

Liège in Belgium captured by the NightPod.
(Credit: ESA/NASA)



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