Blink and you'll miss it
May 19, 2010 4:01 PM   Subscribe

As the shuttle program winds down, astrophotographers like Thierry Legault are taking advantage of these last opportunities to capture absolutely incredible shots like this one, showing Atlantis' transit in front of the sun as it performs its inspection backflip before docking with the ISS. His other photography includes this magnificent series of the launch of STS-125.
For this transit of a maximum duration of 0.54s, the visibility band crossed Spain, southern France, Northern Italy, Austria etc. This band was 4.8 km wide but being placed at its edge implies that the transit duration becomes zero, so in practice I had to be placed less than 1 km from the center of the band. The choice of central Spain has been deduced from the study of weather forecast and detailed maps on Google-Earth.
ISS distance to observer: 391 km. Speed in orbit: 7.4km/s (26500 km/h or 16500 mph).
posted by disillusioned (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The linked photo series is actually of STS-125 last year. Nevertheless, they remain awesome.
posted by elizardbits at 4:11 PM on May 19, 2010

That shot of the shuttle against the sun is amazing, and the other photos are very much worth looking at as well. Good post!

Also of possible interest here: The Big Picture (edited by MetaFilter's own) covers STS-132.
posted by Western Infidels at 4:36 PM on May 19, 2010

Whoops, missed the dates there. If a mod could change the last link, it should instead read/link thusly:

I am very disappointed we're terminating the program without an appropriate heir and any real means to get serious payload into space. There's also something incredible and majestic about the shuttle itself and it's frustrating to see the program come to an end. Worse still that I'll never see a launch. I'm plotting for ways to do so, but they get scrubbed so often, it's really quite a challenge.

I understand that they're complex and over 25 years old but my god are they incredible.
posted by disillusioned at 4:54 PM on May 19, 2010

Thierry is an amazing astrophotographer. His whole site is worth a look..
posted by jgaiser at 5:53 PM on May 19, 2010

I like how there are two people on Facebook in the press site photo.
posted by Corduroy at 6:21 PM on May 19, 2010

Fantastique! Thanks!
posted by That's Numberwang! at 6:52 PM on May 19, 2010

I understand why they are retiring the Shuttle/s.. but I will miss them, back as a kid I cut out the press clippings of the first year or so when they launched in '81-'82.
posted by edgeways at 7:39 PM on May 19, 2010

As a couple people already noted,those Atlantis pics are from STS-125, the Hubble servicing mission. I was actually at the pad last week for this photo opportunity and was looking for me standing in his shot, until I realized these were from last year.

Last week at KSC, I was talking to another guy and we were both in awe of Thierry and the impossibly beautiful images he captures. We also talked about how crazy it is to try to get one of those solar transit shots -- I mean, the timing you have to pull off is insane enough all by itself, but point a lens at the sun? Dude, that's hardcore. You use a filter on the input to the barrel, so you don't scorch the lenses, but still ...

I do understand why the shuttle is being retired and frankly I agree with it. The system has been sucking all the air (funding) out of the room (NASA budget) for too long now, and it's now done everything it can do. The ISS will continue for a long time (well past 2020, don't worry) and will serve as a fine legacy, as well as Hubble and all of the other science objectives achieved by the program. In spite of the poor hand that the shuttle system was dealt in the 70's.

Watch NASA TV; there's a shuttle up right now. TV schedule here. We only have a few more months of this intense activity and then we're heading into a quiet phase of about 5 years. Enjoy it while you can.
posted by intermod at 8:01 PM on May 19, 2010

FINALLY! We've cut the fat out of the US budget.
posted by codswallop at 9:23 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

kinda ironically, i saw this awesome astronomy on the bad astronomy website last night!
posted by marienbad at 3:48 AM on May 20, 2010

As an amateur astrophotographer myself, I feel I can say this:

There is no astrophotographer like Thierry Legault.

There may be some with greater technical ability, but I've yet to see any that rival his tenacity to plan, set up and execute the shots he gets.
posted by achmorrison at 5:59 AM on May 20, 2010

So in many of the launch shots I've seen over time (like this one), the launch path seems to curve a bit. I've always wondered - is this actually due to a non-linear path the shuttle is taking on the way up, or is it because of the slight rotation of the Earth underneath the shuttle while it's taking off, or something else entirely?
posted by FatherDagon at 8:16 AM on May 20, 2010

Wonderful post, disillusioned. Legault's shots of Atlantis and the ISS as they join up while transiting the Sun are staggeringly beautiful. They make you think how atom-sized the crews and their vessels are, compared with the biggest object in our solar system, and yet there they are. Awe-inspiring!
posted by drogien at 12:08 PM on May 20, 2010

Diving into and out of the sky
posted by homunculus at 10:23 AM on June 12, 2010

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