One of the Best Pictures Ever Taken of ISS from the Ground. You Can Even See the Canadarm2

Astrophotographer Thierry Legault is renowned for his amazing shots of spacecraft transiting the Sun. He’s now outdone even himself.

On June 24 and 25, 2020, Legault captured the International Space Station passing in front of the Sun with such clarity, even the station’s robotic arm, the Canadarm2, is clearly visible. The docked SpaceX Dragon capsule can also be seen. These latest masterpieces from Legault are the most detailed ISS images captured from Earth yet.

Solar transit of the ISS on June 24, 2020 showing the SpaceX Crew Dragon docked to the station. The multiple exposures were taken in less than a second, at 60 frames per second. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

Legault credited some new equipment for the increased clarity.

“My new CFF apochromatic triplet 8″ refractor I bought 2 weeks before the shots seems to be optically very good,” he told Universe Today via email. “Focusing is critical and is always a challenge, especially nowadays because there are no sunspots. I had to focus on the solar limb, and fortunately, at the distance of the ISS, there’s no difference in focusing between the Sun and the ISS.”

Legault said the camera he uses, and Olympus E M-1 II, has the fastest continuous shooting: 60 frames per second in 20 Mpix Raw mode. But he has less than a second to capture the space station’s pass in front of the Sun.

“Therefore, I use special module connected to a GPS antenna, to get the GPS time signal and trigger the camera at the time calculated by the website Calsky,” he explained.

On June 24, 2020, Legault drove 300 km south of his home in Paris, and on June 25, he drove 100 km south to be in the right location for the best opportunity to capture these shots.

“I’m used to preparing (with Google maps) and to find a quiet place in the fields close to highway exits,” he said. “I was lucky with very good seeing on 24th, that’s why I could use all the frames. Seeing was not as good on 25th, but I got a couple of frames clearly showing the Canadarm2. You know, good seeing is 50% luck and 50% perseverance!”

The Canadarm2 is 17.6 meters (57.7 feet) long when fully extended, but as you can see here, it was bent at the elbow over 90 degrees. At the time the picture was taken, an external pallet, or stowage platform, was attached to the end of the arm.

Solar transit of the ISS on June 25, showing the SpaceX Crew Dragon and, for the first time, the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

Thanks to Thierry Legault for sharing his incredible skills with Universe Today. See more of Thierry’s great work at his website, or follow him on Twitter. Want to try this yourself? Thierry’s written a book describing his work, called “Astrophotography.” Want to avoid “bad astrophotography?” Legault shared his tips in a previous article on Universe Today.

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

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