Sun, moon, and man

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.


  1. Posted January 5, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    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. Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    ISS my ass! That is clearly an imperial TIE fighter.

    • palefury
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Yes it absolutely is Lorax,
      and I was trying to avoid any imperial… entanglements

    • KP
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      That was my first thought too.

    • Chris Slaby
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      My first thought as well!

    • Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Don’t try to frighten us with your scorcer’s ways Lorax…. ;-))

      I immediately thought “TIE fighter”, too.

  3. Insightful Ape
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Be sure Mooney doesn’t get wise to this.

  4. Miss Kitty
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    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?

    • simbol
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      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”.

  5. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I like mine over easy.

  6. daveau
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    .86 second window. Holy crap! Beautiful.

  7. Posted January 5, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Yes it does get the spiritual chemicals flowing. Great way to start the day, many thanks!!!


  8. Curt Cameron
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    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.

  9. dforse
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    It’s not just a tie fighter

    • Marella
      Posted January 5, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Link didn’t work, not sure why, do I need permission to view page?

  10. markr
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    It’s cool that you can see that the moon has relief, and the silhouette isn’t a smooth arc.

  11. Helen
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    This photo was shown on BBC2 last night in the program Stargazing. Nice try of a program, but hasty and less info than could be.

  12. Helen
    Posted January 6, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Spiritual is the compromize between spiritism and spirits (methanol).

  13. Harbo
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    thank you

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