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cropped and annotated detail

The first crew of the Tianhe core module of the Tiangong space station has been hard at work and already complete their first space walk.

In this official photo there is a dark hemispherical structure, perhaps roughly 10 cm in diameter in the upper left corner protruding from the "ceiling" (opposite side to the surface with the foot restraints).

Question: What is this dark, ceiling-mounted hemisphere in the Tianhe module of the Tiangong space station? Is there a counterpart on the ISS and if so what does it look like?

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese astronauts, from left; Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming salute from aboard China's space station core module Tianhe during a video conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP)

Source is Xinhua News via AP News Chinese astronauts make first spacewalk outside new station

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese astronauts, from left; Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming salute from aboard China's space station core module Tianhe during a video conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP)

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    $\begingroup$ It sure looks like the ceiling-mounted pan-tilt cameras commonly found in terrestrial banks. $\endgroup$ Jul 5 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh So you don't know which way the camera is pointed. They are ubiquitous in stores and other public spaces in the USA (and probably everywhere else); for tech/privacy nerds of a certain age, "ceiling domes of wine-dark opacity" is a catch phrase. $\endgroup$ Jul 5 at 3:49
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    $\begingroup$ Modern ones seem to have color capability. $\endgroup$ Jul 5 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ in past jobs i was consulting for cctv stuff, which invariably originated in china (budget, etc.), and smokey 2k/4k dome cams like above were the norm. As to whether it is that, it could be, though I don't get why it would retract - the crew know and would expect to be under 24/7 surveillance, so why retract the camera (if it is that)? I see about 50/50 images with it in and out and no change in situation as to why. $\endgroup$ Jul 5 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ Just to clarify the above comment, I do not believe it retracts at all, it just was not installed. Since being installed its position has not moved. $\endgroup$ Jul 7 at 12:00
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Partial answer to

Is there a counterpart on the ISS and if so what does it look like?

Using the working hypothesis that the "dark, ceiling-mounted hemisphere" is a ground-controlled camera, then no, there is no counterpart on the US side of the ISS.

The answer to this question How closely can ground control monitor ISS astronauts? discusses the inability of Mission Control to watch the ISS astronauts in the US side of the ISS without their co-operation.

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The Camera is called 'Tianhe Inner Gimbal camera B'

It is a CCTV dome, but it was stowed/uninstalled when first seen.

(This is a partial answer, as it doesn't answer the ISS part)

Seen here before launch: before

After the crew enter: june17

So between arrival on 17 June, and before President Xi Jinping's address to them, the crew do a variety of work, some of which is televised: first night, unpacking, eating, etc.

notyet notyet2

On the 18th they install WiFI.

This coincides with the appearance of the camera.

Given China's level of technology with this and the implementation of 視覺監控系統 visual surveillance system (https://inf.news/aviation/80b6088cc2b36dc2af2e73e151ddc0db.html) and the "time-triggered Ethernet spaceborne prototype system" creating a "smart home", these most likely networked IP cameras, would be part of that system of monitoring.

To keep an eye on the well-being of the crew, Tianhe was fitted with an acoustic and optical alarm system to act as an early warning system on the ground for surveillance

In doing this, there is no need for the astronauts to stay awake and be on guard at all times

(https://www.fr24news.com/a/2021/07/successful-spacewalk-as-shenzhou-12-crew-come-to-life-aboard-chinese-space-station.html)

installed xi

I have a feeling it might be the package attached to the ceiling next to it seen in early pictures.

The ceiling is a false ceiling, and so whilst the cameras protruded quite far down in previous examples, this one can be seen to be part recessed in the ceiling so it is less in the way.

According to pictures from inside Shenzhou and the earlier Tiangong-1 and 2 stations, they had (smoky) domes with substantial housings.

The televised video shows that it is a PTZ/Gimballed camera that can pan, tilt and zoom.

That camera is labelled as such: apple

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEkzDXl10XE at 01:35

Other implementations of closed circuit television cameras internally on other craft:

smokeydomes

Other cameras are fixed:

2x smaller dome CCTV cameras in node (labelled zenith and capsule direction)

The main cameras televised, showing main interior with control center left and another showing from Node to main interior along sleeping quarters, are labelled the following:

'Tianhe Directional Camera A'

and

'Tianhe Directional Camera B'

cam

Everything after 23 June shows the dome present, including the most recent footage of the EVA carried out on Sunday 4 July.

evamonitor4july

The following was just some other idea i was following but it fits this answer too:

internal2

............

on a different note, not related to the dome in the ceiling: (https://www.rmrbwx.com/rmrbwx/57027.html)

the core cabin of our space station has at least 3 cameras installed on the bulkhead of the camera position, one is used to shoot the scene inside the cabin, that is, the camera we watch live broadcasts, and the other two (or more) are one. Group machine vision system.

It is used for spatial scanning. This is a part of machine vision. After the camera vision calibration is adjusted, a group of cameras or a moving camera can be used to three-dimensionalize the space.

Ground personnel can observe the space station in all directions without blind spots, and can even use VR technology to observe information that cannot be reflected in ordinary two-dimensional monitor photos.

And through processing, the astronaut's motion characteristics will also be presented in a three-dimensional recognizable state.

other ref:

(coincidentally I have consulted on installing such equipment at installations in the past)

HISTORIC MOMENT when Shenzhou-12 crew enters Tianhe module for the first time 17 Jun 2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsT6phyUnog

Life of Shenzhou12 astronauts aboard Chinese Space Station 23 Jun 2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN9S6BIEXrU

https://www.space.com/china-president-calls-space-station-shenzhou-12-astronauts

The crew of China's Shenzhou 12 mission salute for a photo inside the Tianhe core module of the Tiangong space station after successfully docking at the module on June 17, 2021. (Image credit: CMSE)

Chinese President Xi Jingping speaks with the three astronauts of China's Shenzhou 12 mission to the Tianhe space station module from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center on June 23, 2021. (Image credit: CMSE)

https://www.caixinglobal.com/2021-07-05/gallery-chinese-astronauts-in-action-outside-tianhe-101736154.html

Chinese astronauts salute as they speak to President Xi Jinping JUN 23, 2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vItL52MjTu8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttN3tM5Kzmk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8fOW-4KHCg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KovckidIbfw

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  • $\begingroup$ Very thorough! 2nd half of the question is "Is there a counterpart on the ISS and if so what does it look like?" I think it wouldn't require as much to address this part. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 7 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ Is there anything in this flood of words and pictures which contains an actual reference proving the item is a camera? I see the word 'guess' a lot. It's my guess too, but SE answers should be more than a guess. $\endgroup$ Jul 7 at 3:02
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble: Considering how little technical information there is about Chinese space technology (not only because of language, but also secrecy), I'm happy to see a "this is what I can find" answer, even if it's not to our usual expectations. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Jul 7 at 4:25

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