Sun and Silhouette

Several months ago, I came across a web site featuring the remarkable astronomical photography of Thierry Legault; I did not have this weblog then, but a post at Bad Astronomy reminded me of this photograph. While there are several amazing pictures there, the following one is truly a jewel, a photograph that prompts you to look at the familiar in a different way. Take a look at our sun:

Copyright Thierry Legault.
Copyright Thierry Legault/Eurelios. Used with the author’s permission.

See that “sunspot?” Take a look at the high-resolution version, available at Mr. Legault’s web site. I’ll zoom up on it here:

Copyright Thierry Legault.
Copyright Thierry Legault/Eurelios. Used with the author’s permission.

That’s right: that’s the International Space Station along with Space Shuttle Atlantis! This was just under an hour after Atlantis had undocked in preparation for the return to Earth. Incredible, isn’t it?

Taking this photograph was no easy task. The photographer had to compute all the details in advance. After examining weather data, he selected the optimal location to take the photograph, 120 kilometers from home. Furthermore, from his location on Earth, it only took three-fifths of a second for the spacecraft to drift across the sun, so the timing had to be perfect.

Fortunately, it was, just like the end result.

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One thought on “Sun and Silhouette

  1. What is indescribably profound, however, is the knowledge that we owe everything to this jewel.

    The sun, I believe, is about half-way through its estimated life span. That also means that our Earth is at middle age. When the hydrogen in the sun’s core is all used up, and it starts burning helium instead, watch out: the sun will bloat, turn red and swallow the inner planets.

    I hope we have established colonies in the outer realms by then.

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