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How in the world did SpaceX snap this stunning rocket-landing photo?

Why it matters to you

With the right camera set up and a bit of luck, that photo you planned can sometimes turn out way better than you expected.

Turns out SpaceX isn’t only pretty clever at getting rockets back to Earth in one piece. The team can snap a mean photo, too.

This latest image, showing its Falcon 9 rocket moments before it landed on a floating barge to complete SpaceX’s recent successful return-to-flight mission, is a real cracker, with the gorgeous natural lighting helping to create a striking and somewhat ethereal image.

The team always capture images and video of its rocket landings, and don’t mind posting them online even when things don’t go according to plan. But this latest shot, grabbed as the rocket passed fortuitously between the sun and the camera lens, is easily its best yet.

Captured from a fixed camera that fired a burst of shots automatically as the rocket approached, the sun’s backlighting contrasts beautifully with the bright boosters, which themselves cast some wonderfully dramatic light across the surface of the barge.

The image likely received a few adjustments in Photoshop to enhance the detail, though even with the tweaks, there’s no denying it scored a real beauty here.

Photography buffs will be interested to learn that the shot was taken using a Canon EOS 6D DSLR. Set at ISO 125 for superior image quality, the shutter fired at a super-speedy 1/2500th of a second. Aperture and lens type aren’t noted.

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The image can also be viewed as an example of how the team has honed the landing capabilities of its rocket. Look closely at the image and you can see the Falcon 9 – with its boosters firing to slow its descent – positioned directly above its designated landing spot.

Saturday’s landing marked a successful return to form for SpaceX after it suffered a catastrophic technical failure on the launchpad in September 2016. Its latest mission deployed 10 Iridium communication satellites into low-Earth orbit.