Thierry Legault’s Incredible Ground-Based Views of Endeavour’s Final Flight

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Award-winning French astrophotographer Thierry Legault traveled through Germany, France and Spain during Endeavour’s final mission to find clear skies and good seeing to capture the shuttle’s voyage to the International Space Station. While he told us it wasn’t easy, the results are incredible! The visible detail of the shuttle and parts of the International Space Stations is absolutely amazing. You can see the newly installed Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer in one shot, as well as the open payload bay doors on Endeavour in another. The video Legault shot is available on his website, and he has unique 3-D versions as well.

Below are some of his trademark views of transits of the Sun by ISS and Endeavour, with one showing the shuttle just before it docked to the station.

Solar transit taken on May 18th from Essen, Germany through thick clouds showing Endeavour a few minutes before docking to the ISS. Transit duration was 0.7 seconds. Credit: Thierry Legault.

Legault told us he was chasing the shuttle and the station from different parts of Europe, however because of weather problems (clouds and turbulence) he was not very happy with the results. But this image is stunning anyway even though clouds dimmed available light by more than 100 times, Legault said. What is perhaps most amazing is that the transit time for this pass in front of the Sun was 0.7 seconds!

Here’s a less cloudy view taken on May 25:

A close-up view of Endeavour and the ISS transiting the sun on May 25th from France. Transit duration was 0.5 seconds. Credit: Thierry Legault.

And the full view for reference. This transit was only a half second!

Solar transit taken on May 25th from France (Orleans), showing Endeavour docked to the ISS. Credit: Thierry Legault.
Series of transits taken on May 20, 22 and 23, 2011 from different areas of France, showing variations of orientation of the ISS with Endeavour docked. On May 23, the ISS passes besides a sunspot which is larger than the Earth. Credit: Thierry Legault

All transit images were taken with Takahashi TOA-150 6″ apochromatic refractor (focal length 2400mm and 3600mm) on EM-400 mount, Baader Herschel wedge. Nikon D3X at 1/8000s, 100 ISO, working in continuous shooting at 5 frames per second during 5 seconds.

Frames from videos taken from Spain (May 31) and France (June 1) 90 minutes before deorbit burn. Credit: Thierry Legault and Emmanual Rietsch.

Here are frames from videos taken by Legault and fellow astrophotographer Emmanual Rietsch just prior to the deorbit burn for landing on June 1. The video of these shots, as well as more images are also available on Legault’s website.

Thanks to Thierry for sending Universe Today these amazing images and allowing us to post them!

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

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