Sun, moon, and man

January 5, 2011 • 6:43 am

If any astronomical photo is gonna make you go all “spiritual”, this is the one. It was taken by Thierry Legault during the partial solar eclipse on Jan. 4, and shows not only the sun and moon, but a space vehicle. Here’s how Thierry describes it on his webpage:

Image of the solar transit of the International Space Station (ISS), taken from the area of Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman on January 4th 2011 at 9:09 UT, during the partial solar eclipse. Takahashi FSQ-106ED refractor on EM-10 mount, Canon 5D mark II. 1/5000s exposure at 100 iso.

Transit forecast calculated by (many thanks to Arnold Barmettler for his help).Transit duration: 0.86s. ISS distance to observer: 510 km. Speed in orbit: 7.8km/s (28000 km/h or 17000 mph).

(Definitely click on image to enlarge):

Note that Thierry had less than one second to snap this photo before the ISS went out of range!

You can see other fantastic pictures of the ISS docking with the space shuttle Atlantis here, as well as a one-second video of that transit across the Sun’s face, showing how precise Legault had to be to get these shots.  Do go to that link; you won’t regret it.  There are other great photos on his web page, Astrophotography.

Legault is an engineer and astronomy buff who lives outside Paris. Here he is with his gear, poised for that shot:

h/t to Thierry for permission to put up this photo, and to Matthew Cobb for calling it to my attention.

UPDATE:  Phil Plait talks more about the photo on Bad Astronomy.

19 thoughts on “Sun, moon, and man

  1. That photo is 100% pure unadulterated awesome.

    It’s also a great way to put the dimensions of the Solar System into perspective.

    The ISS is about the size of a bus.

    The moon is almost as wide as the United States — its diameter is almost exactly the same as the distance from Los Angeles to Atlanta

    And that sunspot opposite the ISS, at about the 5:00 position? It’s twice the diameter of the Earth.



  2. The photograph is stunning. I’m still not sure what is meant by spiritual. Is that some thing physical reacting to a stimulation? I often hear or read, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” From that statement we are to understand what?
    That the speaker finds something odious in organized religion, but is unable to speak to the possible world of no god?

    1. In my country and language (spanish) by “spiritual” we mean people who love art, culture, knowledge, romantic love, the joy of friendship and to help the underdog and lost causes. The opposite is “materialistic”, those who loves money and excesses in the consumption of material goods or pleasures.

      As you can see, in my case, it has nothing to do with religion, but with the usual and outdated dualism of mind and body.

      Lately, as the churches call their domain (gods, souls, angels and demons)”spiritual”, we, non-believers, are no longer “spiritual” but materialists, physicalists, scientificists, reductionists or whatever. Je m’en fous and call myself “spiritual”.

  3. I bet the ISS got really hot during that 0.86 seconds! Good thing the transit was brief!

    Just joking, but when I was a kid about six years old, I remember having just that kind of thought about a small plane passing overhead in front of the Sun.

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