On June 16 and 17, Legault imaged solar transits of Chinese space station Tiangong ("heavenly palace") 1 with spacecraft Shenzhou 10 attached. Shenzhou 10, you might recall, launched on June 11 with three astronauts to kick off an expected 15-day mission. From his vantage point in Southern France, Legault first nailed the two spacecraft on June 16 using a white light solar filter, which attenuates the Sun's visible spectrum into a level safe for telescope observing. Look for the spacecraft nestled among the sunspots on the right side of the picture:
Tiangong 1 and Shenzhou 10 transit the Sun
China’s Shenzhou 10 spacecraft and Tiangong 1 space station transit the Sun on June 16, 2013. The image was taken from Southern France using a Takahashi TOA-150 refractor, a Baader Herschel solar prism and a Canon 6D camera shooting at 1/4000s, at ISO 100.
Here's a closeup. The left side of the H-shape is Tiangong 1, and Shenzhou 10 is on the right. Both spacecraft have solar arrays pointed up and down. Keep in mind that the transit lasts less than a half-second. The precision required to pull this off is extremely high.
Shenzhou 10 and Tiangong 1 (detailed)
A cropped selection of Shenzhou 10 and Tiangong 1 transiting the Sun.
The next day, on June 17, Legault tried again using a hydrogen-alpha filter, which only brings in the colored light emenating from the Sun's hydrogen. Our star looks incredible enough on its own; solar filaments stretch across its surface, while solar prominences extend thousands of kilometers into space. For this transit, Legault captured a series of images at 38 frames per second. The result is a striking line of the two spacecraft bisecting the Sun’s orange disk.
Shenzhou 10 and Tiangong 1 transit sequence
This combined image sequence shows Shenzhou 10 and Tiangong 1 transiting the Sun on June 17, 2013. The images were captured from Southern France using a Takahashi FSQ-106 refracting telescope, a Coronado SM90 double stack solar filter, and an IDS CMOSIS 4Mp sensor shooting at 38 fps.
Note: Thierry Legault’s images are copyrighted. He has graciously given us permission to post them here, but any other use requires his permission.
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