Tag: Thierry Legault

Moonbow, Milky Way, meteor

By Phil Plait | October 21, 2012 7:00 am

If you’ve read this blog before, then all I really need to tell you is that Thierry Legault took a picture.

See?

While in Queensland, Australia, Thierry took this shot of Wallaman Falls. While the Milky Way shone down, a meteor zipped past, adding to the drama. But what’s that at the bottom? A rainbow? At night?

Yup. Well, kinda. It’s a Moonbow, the same thing as a rainbow but with the Moon as the light source. Well, and it’s not raindrops that cause it, but aerosolized water droplets acting as little prisms, breaking the light up into the usual colors. Moonbows are very faint, but they show up in long exposures like this one.

Leave it to Thierry to not be satisfied with just our galaxy, a bit of interplanetary debris vaporizing, and a waterfall in his shot. Amazing.

He has more pictures from that trip, and yeah, you want to see them. His photos have been on this blog so many times I can’t even list them, but check out the Related Posts below, click the links, then click the links at the bottom of those posts (or you can use my search engine). It’s a journey that’ll widen your eyes.

[UPDATE: Thanks to pixguyinburbank on Twitter, I learned of a wonderful video about moonbows put out by the folks at Yosemite National park in the US. It’s so good I’ll just add it here so you can see it. Fantastic!

Enjoy!]

Image credit: Thierry Legault, used by permission.


Related Posts:

… I’m just on my way up to Clavius
Interloper of the Venus Transit
China’s space lab has a spot in the Sun
Doomed Russian Mars probe seen from the ground

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

… I'm just on my way up to Clavius

By Phil Plait | September 14, 2012 12:08 pm

Thierry Legault is no stranger to this blog (see Related Posts below or search the blog for his stuff); his astrophotos are always amazing. Always. And he just sent me a link to a new batch that are jaw-dropping: very high-resolution images of the Moon, Mercury, and even Uranus. As an example, here is a shot he got of the giant crater Clavius on the Moon:

I shrank that image way down to fit the blog; click it to monolithenate. The detail is astonishing. There are lots more shots of the Moon like that on his site; and you most certainly want to click the links to Uranus and Mercury above. You can see details on both planets (the surface for Mercury, and cloud tops for Uranus)!

I always say that astronomy is much more than just pretty pictures, but sometimes, when the pictures are as pretty as this, astronomy is quite simply art.

[One gold star to anyone who can identify the title of this post without looking it up.]

Image credit: Thierry Legault


Related Posts:

Interloper of the Venus transit
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, Pretty pictures

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

China's space lab has a spot in the Sun

By Phil Plait | May 14, 2012 6:30 am

On May 11, the phenomenal astrophotographer Thierry Legault took another amazing picture of the Sun (See Related Posts below for more of Thierry’s work that’s been featured here at the BA blog). Setting up his equipment in the south of France, he captured this truly magnificent shot of our nearest star… and when you finish picking your jaw off the floor, stick around, because your amazement isn’t done yet:

[Click to hugely ensolarnate.]

I know, right? That HUGE sunspot cluster is Active Region 1476, which has been blorting out some small flares, but nothing major. That’s a bit surprising, given how big and active the magnetic field is in those spots. Still, the cluster has grown to something like 200,000 km (120,000 miles) stem to stern, and that one big spot is 100,000 or so km (60,000 miles) across. Mind you, the Earth is about 13,000 km (8000 miles) across, so keep that in mind when you’re looking at it.

But there’s more to see! Including the reason Thierry took this picture in the first place…

Read More

Doomed Russian Mars probe seen from the ground

By Phil Plait | January 4, 2012 2:21 pm

In November 2011, the Russian space agency launched the much-anticipated Mars probe called Phobos-Grunt (which means "Phobos dirt" or "ground"), which would go to the Red Planet, soft-land a probe on the tiny moon Phobos, and return a sample of the surface to Earth. Unfortunately, the booster that would take it from Earth orbit into a Mars-intercept trajectory failed to fire, stranding the spacecraft in low-Earth orbit. Atmospheric drag has doomed the mission; it will most likely burn up sometime in the next two weeks.

Phobos-Grunt is visible to the naked eye as a bright star if it happens to pass overhead. Astronomer Thierry Legault, an expert in nabbing incredible images of objects in orbit (and no stranger to this blog!), traveled to Nice, France to observe it, and (as usual) got great video of it:

You can actually see detail in the probe; he provided a helpful picture to make it more clear:

The solar panels and other parts are pretty obvious.

Like UARS and ROSAT last year, Phobos-Grunt is making an uncontrolled re-entry, and it’s not entirely clear where it will fall. Odds are it’ll be over water, since the majority of Earth’s surface is ocean. The predictions I’m seeing look like it’ll be on or around January 15th. The actual location of re-entry won’t be known pretty much until the moment it comes down; it’s moving at several kilometers every second, so being off by a few minutes in the time means being off by thousands of kilometers in the location! There are a lot of variables involved too, including the orientation of the satellite (which changes the drag it feels from the atmosphere), solar activity (a solar storm can make the atmosphere puff up, speeding up the date of the spacecraft’s demise), and so on. I’ll write more information as I hear it.

In the meantime, you can check to see if Phobos-Grunt will pass over your location and you can see it; I suggest using Heavens-Above.com.

Image and video credit: Thierry Legault, used by permission. Slight edit of image done by The Bad Astronomer to compress it horizontally.


Related posts:

ESA writes off Phobos-Grunt
Phobos-Grunt scheduled to launch at 20:16 UT
Final: ROSAT came down in the Bay of Bengal
UARS official re-entry… and up next: ROSAT

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Top Post

Doomed ROSAT captured in video

By Phil Plait | October 20, 2011 9:45 am

I actually kinda half-expected this would happen: the fantastic "amateur" astronomer Thierry Legault was able to observe and get video of the astronomical satellite ROSAT as it’s making its final orbits around the Earth:

He also observed it on October 16th, but I think the video above from late September shows it better.

To show you how good this is, I took an image he provided of stills from his video and added a drawing of the satellite below them:

Amazingly, in Thierry’s images you can clearly see the boom extending from the satellite’s main body (at the bottom of the photos, and off to the left in the drawing). That boom holds a magnetometer (to measure the Earth’s magnetic field) and an antenna used to communicate with Earth. From what I can tell, the boom is about 4.4 meters (14.4 feet) in length. In that September image, ROSAT was over 450 km (270 miles) away from Thierry when he took it!

Current models predict ROSAT will plunge to Earth on October 23rd, sometime around 11:00 UTC (7:00 a.m. Eastern US time). Follow ROSAT_reentry on Twitter for the latest info.


Related posts:

YouTube video where I explain a satellite re-entry
BREAKING: SpySat successfully hit by missile
Atlantis, one last time in the Sun
SERIOUSLY jaw-dropping pictures of Endeavour and the ISS!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: ROSAT, Thierry Legault

NASA satellite due to burn up some time in the next few days

By Phil Plait | September 21, 2011 6:27 am

[UPDATE: Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log is reporting that the satellite will definitely come down on Friday, though NASA is not sure yet exactly when and where.]

[UPDATE 2: Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society blog has lots of detailed info now.]

By now you’ve probably heard that NASA’s Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS, pronounced YOO-arz, though in my head it’s always "You arse!") will burn up in our atmosphere some time between Thursday and Saturday. The satellite was decommissioned in 2005 and they used the remaining fuel to lower the orbit. It’s been slowly getting lower since then, but recently reached the part of our air where it slows and drops dramatically. As you can see from this plot (click to embiggen), it’s dropped from about 375 km to 200 in just the last few months, and down it’ll come later this week.

No one knows where or when it will hit, since the final flight path will depend on changing atmospheric conditions, orientation of the satellite, and so on. Most of the 6 ton satellite will burn up, but some two dozen or so pieces are expected to survive re-entry.

Speaking of which: I’m seeing some concern over people getting hit by this thing. The odds of that are extremely low. It’s possible — NASA rates the odds at about 1 in 3200 — but highly unlikely. Mind you, those are the odds of anyone getting hit by debris. The odds of a specific person, say me, getting hit are far lower — if I’m doing this math correctly, you’d multiply that number by the population of the Earth, nearly seven billion people. So the odds of me (or you, or pick someone) specifically getting hit are about 1 in 20 trillion. Pretty long odds.

In the meantime, on September, 15th, "amateur" astronomer Thierry Legault was able to capture video of the satellite while it passed over his location:

Cool, eh? You can see the rotation; it’s tumbling, apparently. Out of power, it can’t keep the correct attitude, and over time something has caused it to spin. Maybe it was a collision, or maybe it’s from other subtle but persistent forces over the years (solar wind, light pressure, drag through our tenuous upper atmosphere, slow fuel leak, what have you). Here are some stills from Thierry’s video to make that more clear:

Pretty cool. So stay tuned. I’ll update with more info when I get it; we’ll know the re-entry time and location much better as the week progresses. <a href="I’ll be tweeting about it as well as soon as I find anything out.

Credits: Orbit plot: Jonathan McDowell; UARS images: Thierry LeGault.


Related posts:

YouTube video where I explain a satellite re-entry
BREAKING: SpySat successfully hit by missile
The return of Stardust
Spy sat to come home… not too secretly

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Space

Atlantis, one last time in the Sun

By Phil Plait | July 22, 2011 11:04 am

Thierry Legault has done it again!™

Thierry, an amateur astronomer from Belgium France, has had many of his amazing photographs grace this blog, and just yesterday I was wondering what he would get from the last Space Shuttle mission. As if on cue, he alerted me about his latest set of pictures, including this amazing shot of Atlantis moving across the face of the Sun:


[Click to enspaceplanenate.]

This is a combination of four images, with the position of Atlantis marked with circles. He took that shot in Germany just 21 minutes before the de-orbit burn, meaning this may be one of the last images ever taken of an Orbiter actually in orbit (the picture I posted earlier today taken from the space station shows Atlantis as it was moving through our atmosphere, when it was no longer in orbit).

A few days earlier, in the Czech Republic, Thierry captured Atlantis and the ISS less than an hour after the Orbiter had undocked:

Read More

SERIOUSLY jaw-dropping pictures of Endeavour and the ISS!

By Phil Plait | June 6, 2011 6:00 am

Thierry Legault is a wonder. His astrophotos and shots of orbiting satellites have graced this blog many, many times (see Related Posts below), but even so I get a thrill every time he sends me a note about new pictures. Wanna know why? Check this out: Endeavour docked on the International Space Station:

Holy. Haleakala! [Click to embiggen; note that the images shown here are also done with Emmanuel Rietsch.]

This may be the most amazing shot of an Orbiter and ISS I have ever seen! Oh… and did I mention this was taken from the ground? Yegads.

The detail is incredible; you can see features on Endeavour, the open payload bay doors, and all sorts of accoutrements on the station itself (including the newly-installed the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2). This picture actually shows three frames from a video; as the ISS and Orbiter pass overhead their angle to the ground changes, and you can see that in the sequence. The video itself is embedded on his website, and you have to see it to believe it. He has 3D versions, too!

And there’s more. As Endeavour was on approach to dock with ISS he got this amazing shot of it silhouetted against the Sun (click to see it in full-res, and yes, you really really want to). The time window for getting a picture with the Orbiter and ISS like this is just a matter of hours; it’s hard enough figuring out where and when on Earth to see the Orbiter against the Sun, but to happen to nail it when it’s only a hundred meters from the ISS is mind-boggling. I love how the clouds add a bit of drama to the scene, too. It doesn’t hurt that several sunspots are dotting the disk of the Sun, too. The space station looks odd, but you’re seeing it from the side, so it’s more edge-on.

This next one may give you more of a sense of scale here:

Read More

Discovery spacewalk seen from the ground

By Phil Plait | March 9, 2011 12:49 pm

I should copyright the phrase, "Thierry Legault has done it again!" because he does keep seeming to do it again! He is an "amateur" astronomer in Europe, and takes phenomenal pictures of spacecraft from the ground. And this one is pretty incredible: it shows NASA astronaut Steve Bowen doing a spacewalk during Discovery’s last flight to the space station!

Wow. In space, you can orbit but you can’t hide. [Click to enastronautenate.]

Thierry helpfully annotated the picture. The body of the station is to the right, and the bent joint of the robotic arm is obvious. The big blob labeled ammonia pump is just that; a pump that has failed, which Bowen was moving to a storage location. Just next to it, on the left, is a blurry but distinct blob that is a living, breathing astronaut in space! Thierry included a still from a NASA video to provide further support that what you are seeing is actually a man orbiting the Earth at nearly 30,000 kph.

[UPDATE: Thierry just informed me that as far as he can tell, this is the first clear shot of an astronaut ever seen from the ground. There have been claims in the past (like this one from 2009), but they have been very blurry and unable to be confirmed. Thierry’s still frame from the NASA video makes it clear he truly did see Bowen in his image. I did a quick search and was unable to find any other pictures taken from the ground that unequivocally show an astronaut. So, to Thierry: congrats!]

I am a rational person, or at least I try to be. I know the equipment Thierry used, the size of the space station, and the distance to it. It’s a simple matter of math to understand that an object as small as a man in a spacesuit can be seen from the ground, and distinguished from other objects nearby.

But to actually see it in a picture like this is thrilling. Simply wonderful.

Image credit: Thierry Legault, used with permission.


Related posts:

Insanely awesome solar eclipse picture
ANOTHER insanely awesome shot of the solar eclipse
When natural and artificial moons align
Extremely cool 3D space station video taken from the ground

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures
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