Amazingly well-timed photos of ISS silhouetted against moon, sun

Craft & Design Photography & Video Science
Amazingly well-timed photos of ISS silhouetted against moon, sun

Both these remarkable images were captured from the ground by French astrophotographer Thierry Legault.

The first, showing the ISS passing in front of the full moon, was taken from Avranches, France, at 21:34 UTC on December 20, 2010. The space station, of course, is much closer to the camera than the moon is, and is moving at 7.5 km/s relative to the ground, the upshot of which is that this photograph was only possible for the 0.55 seconds it took the ISS to pass in front of the moon. Monsieur Legault knew that, in advance, planned for it, and got the shot.

The second, even more remarkable photograph, shows a double partial eclipse of the sun, most obviously by the moon, to lower left, but also, again, by the ISS. The small dark spot to lower right is a sun spot larger than the Earth itself. This photograph was only possible for a 0.86 second window at 9:09 UTC on January 4th, 2011, from Muscat, Oman. Again, Legault carefully planned to be in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, and got the shot.

M. Legault’s website is absolutely chock-a-block with stunning astrophotography and is well worth the click. Just be prepared to spend some time gawking. [via Neatorama]


14 thoughts on “Amazingly well-timed photos of ISS silhouetted against moon, sun

  1. SKR says:

    It looks like a tie fighter

  2. says:

    I’m not sure what’s ‘precise’ about any of this. This type of photography is quite easy to do with modest equipment. Is the author of the title referring to precisely timed event photography? I’m confused.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      …to have confused you. I struggled with the headline. “Accurate” seems to me to suggest spatial accuracy, which would imply that I was impressed by M. Legault’s ability to correctly point his camera at the moon and/or sun. This, I think, is something not many people would be impressed by. “Accurately-timed” was too clunky for my ear, but it is, I think, really more what I intended.

      What I really wanted to say, but couldn’t find concise words, was that I was impressed by the understanding and passion of a person who would plan ahead days or weeks in advance to photograph an event lasting only a few tenths of a second, visible only from a particular location on the surface of the Earth, and would invest considerable time and energy arranging to be just there and just then so he could capture the moment just so. And of course by the evident aesthetic quality of his results.

      1. says:

        No problem, I’m easily confused! These are very cool photos and I certainly don’t want to detract from that.

  3. Adam E says:

    It’s great photography, considering the narrow window of opportunity. A better word would be “accurate” because the timing was in the right spot each time. Precision is better for describing how tight the accuracy is for multiple measurements. Even better that using “accurate” one could use “well-timed” or “right on.” Otherwise, it’s great work especially with the sun in the background.

  4. Sean Michael Ragan says:

    …for a helpful constructive comment. I’ve changed the title per your suggestion.

  5. craig says:

    The speed that the ISS streaks across the sky is incredible. I once sighted in my equatorial mount telescope just ahead of it, locked down the wingbolts and managed to turn the tracking knobs to stay with it, and it was all over my field of view. And to predict when it’s path would be between you and the moon EXACTLY even with the ISS tracking website is incredible. Once I had a cheap telescope set up as a sun viewer on a projection screen, and a plane coasting into the airport west of me was viewed cruising through the image. To capture that in a photo is incredible. I had a random sattelitte cruise through my viewing of the Orion Nebula once also… so random, capturing it is something to be admired.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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