Categories: AstrophotosSatellites

Video: Thierry Legault Captures the ROSAT Satellite Just Before Re-Entry

I was waiting for this, and I know our readers have been looking forward to seeing astrophotographer Thierry Legault’s images of the ROSAT satellite as it heads towards its uncontrolled re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere to its ultimate demise. Legault took a series of images on October 16, 2011 from France and combined them into a video. The speed of the sequences is accelerated 3 times with regard to real time (30 frames per second vs 10 fps). The distance to observer is 275 km, with the altitude of the satellite at 235 km. Angular speed at culmination: 1.66°/s.

“It looks very steady, no sign of tumbling or flares like UARS,” Legault told Universe Today via Skype.

You can compare it to earlier images taken by Legault on September 23, 2011, below.

This remarkable video was taken with a 14” Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope using a specially made tracking system developed by Legault and Emmanuel Rietsch. You learn more about the system as Legault’s website.


Legault said he drove 100s of kilometers in order to capture ROSAT, and had to deal with clouds and fog before successfully imaging the satellite.

The latest prediction put out by the German Space Agency (DLR) has the ROSAT satellite re-entering sometime between October 21 and 24. This is a slightly narrower time window than the last prediction, which lasted until October 25. We’ll keep you posted on when and where the pieces of the satellite might fall. Legault told Universe Today that he is hoping ROSAT will provide some nice fireworks right over his location in France!

The video below, taken by Legault on September 23, 2011 at 04:36 UT shows ROSAT at an altitude of 284 km, with distance to observer at 458 km. Angular speed at culmination: 0.94°/s.

See Legault’s website for more information and images.

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 and and Instagram at and

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