The Man Who Shoots Space: Interview with Thierry Legault

by Nancy Atkinson on November 27, 2012

We’ve written many articles to share the incredible astrophotography of Thierry Legault, and have also interviewed him extensively about his work. If you’ve enjoyed his imagery and stories, you’ll appreciate this new video interview from VICE which shows Legault at work, and allows him to tell his story in his own words.

Thierry Legault with the customized equipment he uses for satellite images. Images courtesy of Thierry Legault.

If you aren’t familiar with the work of Legault, he has taken images such as the space shuttle and space station as they transited across the Sun, the first-ever ground-based image of astronaut in spacewalk, and images of spy satellites in orbit. He lives in the suburbs of Paris, but will easily travel 3,000 and 4,000 kilometers — and sometimes to another continent — to capture a specific image.

And usually, the events he captures last only about a half-second and he never sees them live with his own eyes.

“For transits I have to calculate the place, and considering the width of the visibility path is usually between 5-10 kilometers, but I have to be close to the center of this path,” Legault explained in a previous interview with UT, “because if I am at the edge, it is just like a solar eclipse where the transit is shorter and shorter. And the edge of visibility line of the transit lasts very short. So the precision of where I have to be is within one kilometer.”

Legault studies maps, and has a radio synchronized watch to know very accurately when the transit event will happen.

“My camera has a continuous shuttering for 4 seconds, so I begin the sequence 2 seconds before the calculated time,” he said. “I don’t look through the camera – I never see the space station when it appears, I am just looking at my watch!”

For a transit event, he gets get a total of 16 images – 4 images every second, and only after he enlarges the images will he know if he succeeded or not.

“There is a kind of feeling that is short and intense — an adrenaline rush!” Legault said.

Enjoy the new video interview, and see Legault’s imagery at his website.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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