Interloper of the Venus Transit

By Phil Plait | June 7, 2012 9:39 am

I figured I was done posting Venus Transit pictures, but I should’ve realized I hadn’t heard from Thierry Legault yet. And as soon as I saw his name in my email Inbox this morning, and before I even opened it, I knew I’d have at least one more picture to show you.

And I was right. Thierry is a master astrophotographer, and he’s not one to just let an astronomical event go by without figuring out some way to make it even cooler. He traveled to northeast Australia to view the Venus transit… not just because it had a good view, but also because from there, he could see the Hubble Space Telescope transiting the Sun at the same time! On June 6th, at 01:42:25 UTC, he got this amazing shot:

Holy wow! [Click to doubletransitenate.]

You can see Venus as the big black circle, as well as dozens of sunspots. But you can also see multiple images of Hubble as it zipped across the Sun, circled in the image above. Orbiting the Earth, Hubble moves across the sky so quickly that it crossed the Sun in just under a second. Blasting his DSLR away at ten frames per second (and with an exposure time of only 1/8000th of a second per frame) Thierry managed to get 8 shots of Hubble silhouetted against the Sun.

Here’s a bit of a close-up:

I added the arrows to help you see Hubble. The orbiting telescope was about 750 kilometers (450 miles) away from Thierry when he took these pictures (it was not directly overhead), so details on Hubble are too small to capture, but it can be seen as a black dot.

Theirry’s done this before, too: in January 2011, he got an astonishing picture of the space station crossing the Sun during a partial solar eclipse! His ability to time these events and get pictures like these is nothing short of amazing.

He also says he got more pictures, too, including some of Venus just as it was entering the Sun’s face. Hopefully he’ll have those available soon! In the meantime, click the links below under Related Posts to see more of his ridiculously cool photos.

Image credit: Thierry Legault, used by permission.

Related Posts:

China’s space lab has a spot in the Sun
Doomed ROSAT captured in video
Atlantis, one last time in the Sun
SERIOUSLY jaw-dropping pictures of Endeavour and the ISS!
INSANELY awesome solar eclipse picture

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (30)

  1. Hunter Shoptaw

    Not to be picky but I count 9 shots of Hubble.

  2. I knew he wouldn’t disappoint. I was hoping for Venus+ISS+Dragon, but since Dragon is back from space, that obviously wasn’t possible. Venus+ISS would have been nice, but I suppose we’ll just have to “settle” for Venus+Hubble.

  3. Jefferson

    Awesome-sauce! Looks like 9 shots of Hubble though?

  4. Yay! I was just talking about Mr. Legault’s photos with someone at work the other day, and I wondered if he’d be doing anything for the transit? Bien sûr!

  5. Mark

    A picture from Earth, of the Hubble, when it was looking at the Moon, which was reflecting light from the Sun, which passed through the atmosphere of Venus, which is also in the picture.

    Have I impressed you yet, Amy Pond?

  6. Chris

    I figured he would do something like this, but I thought it would be the ISS. He must be really rich that he can travel all around just for some photos. Glad he is using his money for good and not evil :-)

    I actually thought I saw something go across the sun while I was watching the transit, but I’m pretty sure it was just a bug walking across the lens. It was way too big and slow to be anything else.

  7. Physicalist

    Well, as photo-bombs go, I guess that’s pretty mild.

  8. Aaron

    Next I want to see HST transiting Venus transiting the Sun . . . 😉

  9. Venus

    Space telescopes these days… always in a hurry.

  10. Phil, finally got around to sorting through all 600 images I took of the transit, and just spotted something that is of the utmost importance.

    In one shot I had an interloper that was not in the preceding shot, nor the shot afterwards (was taking an image every 5 seconds). Too big to be the ISS, couldn’t have been a jet or prop plane.

    From the shape, there is only one explanation on what it can be…….


  11. Markle

    Next I want to see HST transiting Venus transiting the Sun . . . 😉

    2117. Better eat your Wheaties. And start raising funds for a few reboost flights from SpaceX. Or whoever…
    But if you’re paying, I’ll bet you can CHOOSE the orbit so it’s just so. Posing spacecraft….

  12. SeattleChris

    Just curious, but I could not find an explanation of the editing needed to composite these nine images. Thierry must have either taken 9 negatives, summed them together, then negated the final; or is there a process of directly “subtracting” the 9 images. Otherwise it would require pasting 8 Hubble’s onto a master image.

  13. Navneeth

    If Mr. Legault is reading this:

    How did you manage to find a location from where you could see the HST crossing the Sun? Do you have customised software which allows you to calculate such transits for all possible locations on the Earth at a particular time or during a certain period? (I don’t know if CalSky offers non-location-specific predictions.)



    I think it took just OVER a second rather than under. There are nine shots and he was taking 8 shots per second soooo….

  15. Messier Tidy Upper

    8) WOW! 😀

    Breath-takingly marvellous work.

    Thankyou for taking and sharing this Thierry Legault & the Bad Astronomer! :-)

  16. Buxley

    Now Thierry Legault is just showing off. =)

    And I hope he continues to do so for a long, long time. Spectacular image!


  17. Nigel Depledge

    That is very cool.

    Such a shame Hubble orbits too high to get any detail of it in the photos.

  18. Thank you for your ncie comments!

    @Chris: it’s a combination by “darkest pixels” (I don’t remember the exact name in Photoshop since I did it with astronomical software, but it’s the same principle), the algorithm takes the darkest value of all 9 images for each pixel.

    @Navneeth: Calsky can calculate the path of transit for any chosen interval of time, the observer site having no importance in this case.

  19. Derek

    Thanks, Mr. Legault! Nice work.

    It occurs to me that those were probably the most well documented and observed SUNSPOTS in history too, yes?

  20. Yeebok

    .. my FSM he’s good.

  21. Navneeth

    Thanks for your reply!


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