Amazing Video: Watch SpaceX’s Dragon in Flight, as Seen From the Ground

Always on the lookout for interesting events in the skies, astrophotographer Thierry Legault has captured an incredible video of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule traveling through space just 20 minutes after it launched from Kennedy Space Center on June 3, 2017.

“You can see the Dragon, the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, and solar panel covers,” Legault told Universe Today via email, “plus a nice surprise I discovered during processing: several fast ejections of material, certainly thrusters firing!”

Legault captured at least 6 ejections of material during the passage over his location in Tours, France. The three brightest are highlighted at the end of this video. He used a Sony Alpha 7S with a 200mm lens.

So, what you’re seeing is the Dragon traveling through the background of stars. Legault hand-tracked the Dragon, so even though it appears as stationary (with a few bumps here and there) and objects are zooming past, the capsule is in fact moving at close to 17,500 mph (28,000 km/h). This was taken a just few minutes after the capsule separated from the Falcon nine upper stage and jettisoned the covers on the solar panels, so all the individual bright ‘dots’ seen here were still near each other, moving together in Earth orbit.

This Dragon is now docked at the International Space Station, as the launch was the CRS-11 (11 of 12 planned Commercial Resupply Services for SpaceX.) This was the first time that a Dragon spacecraft was reused, and it brought supplies and science experiments to the ISS. As SpaceX has now done several times, the first stage booster landed back at KSC. This was also the 100th launch from historic pad 39A. Read more about the launch and mission here.

This isn’t the first time Legault has captured the Dragon in flight; he also shot footage of Dragon on its way to the ISS in April of 2014. Recently, he also was able to take multiple images of the ISS passing in front of the Moon:

Lunar transit of the ISS
Expedition 50 with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet on February 4, 2017. Filmed with Celestron C14 EdgeHD and Sony Alpha 7S from Rouen, France (Pesquet’s birth city). Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

Thanks to Thierry for sharing his footage and images with Universe Today. Keep track of his amazing work at his website.

Some Of The Deepest & Sharpest Shots of The Moon from Earth

Who doesn’t love to gaze at the Moon on a clear night? But astrophotographer Thierry Legault now taken Moon-gazing to new heights. Legault traveled to the Alps in August and set up his Celestron C14 Edge HD and ZWO ASI1600MM camera. The results are absolutely stunning.

“These are the largest and sharpest quarters ever,” Legault said via email, adding that he created mosaic images of 10 fields for a definition of 150 million pixels!

Above you can see incredible detail in the 58 mile-wide (93 km) impact crater Copernicus.

Below is a lunar quarter taken on August 24, 2016:

Image of the Moon taken on August 24, 2016 from the Alps. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.
Image of the Moon taken on August 24, 2016 from the Alps. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

Legault has been known to travel wherever it takes to get the best shots, for example traveling through Germany, France and Spain to capture shots of space shuttle Endeavour on its final mission, or finding the best locations for stunning and sometimes ground-breaking shots of the International Space Station crossing the Sun or Moon, or views of spy satellites in orbit.

In his book, “Astrophotography,” Legault said that for clear close-ups of the Moon, good atmospheric conditions are a must, as well as having a finely tuned or collimated telescope. Below is a close-up view of Triesnecker crater and the surrounding region near the central part of the Moon’s near side, including sharp view of the rilles.

Triesnecker crater in the central part of the Moon's near side is 26 km in diameter and 2.7 km deep. A system of rilles can also be seen. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.
Triesnecker crater in the central part of the Moon’s near side is 26 km in diameter and 2.7 km deep. A system of rilles can also be seen. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

For processing these images Legault used AutoStakkert!2 (AS!2), PTGui stitching software and Photoshop.

You can see more of these stunning shots at Legault’s website, where he says he’ll have posters of these images available soon.

Of course, you can try seeing these features on the Moon yourself. Even binoculars or a small telescope can provide wonderful views of our closest companion in space. An upcoming full Moon (Super Moon!) on November 14, 2016, will feature the closest full Moon (356,509 kilometers away) until November 25, 2034 (356,448 kilometers away.)

Our thanks to Thierry Legault for sharing these wonderful new images of the Moon!

Watch Fast and Furious All-sky Aurora Filmed in Real Time

If seeing the Northern or Southern Lights hasn’t been crossed off your bucket list yet, this video is the next best thing to seeing the aurora live. Astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault has captured spectacular views of the Aurora Borealis from Norway, filmed in real time.

“I was in Norway in early November,” Thierry told Universe Today, “this was my 5th stay and really the best one, with incredible auroras. At moments they were so large and fast that we didn’t know where to look.” He added they were “totally hypnotic.”

The 16-minute video includes 6 of the best sequences Legault captured. “I included the start and finish of the sequences to show their behavior to people who have never witnessed them,” he said. “The auroras seem to be alive, sometimes like snakes or rivers.”

Legault used a Sony Alpha 7s, which he says is the only camera able to record video like this in such lighting. The video is recorded at 25 frames a second.

For the best view of the video, switch to full HD mode (1080p) and full screen.

Legault has been going to Norway annually to see the aurora. Here are the views he captured last year.

See more of Legault’s work at his website. He has technical pages there with advice for capturing the night sky. He provides more details and tips in his excellent book, Astrophotography.

First Lunar Eclipse Ever Photographed with a Transit of the ISS

To our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has ever photographed a transit of the International Space Station of the Moon DURING a lunar eclipse. And guess who did it?

Not surprisingly, it was the legendary astrophotographer Thierry Legault.
Usually, Thierry will travel up to thousands of miles to capture unique events like this, but this time, he only had to go 10 miles!

“Even if I caught a cold, I could not miss it,” Thierry told Universe Today in an email. “The Moon was very low on the horizon, only 16 degrees, so the seeing was not very good, but at least the sky was clear.”

Still, a stunning — and singularly unique — view of the “Super Blood Moon” eclipse!

See the video below:

It was a quick pass, with the ISS transit duration lasting a total of 1.7 seconds. Thierry uses CalSky to calculate where he needs to be to best capture an event like this, then studies maps, and has a radio synchronized watch to know very accurately when the transit event will happen.

In a previous article on Universe Today, Legault shared how he figures out the best places to travel to from his home near Paris to get the absolute best shots:

“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, “because if I am at the edge, it is just like an 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.”

Here’s the specs: ISS Speed: 25000 km/h (15500 mph). ISS Distance: 1100 km; Moon distance: 357,000 km (320x).

You can see other imagery from around the world of the lunar eclipse here, with images taken by Universe Today readers and staff.

Earlier this year, Thierry captured an ISS transit during the March 20, 2015 SOLAR eclipse, which you can see here.

Universe Today’s David Dickinson said he’s been trying to steer people towards trying to capture an ISS transit during a lunar eclipse for quite some time, and concurred that Thierry’s feat is a first. Dave made a video earlier this year to explain how people might photograph it during the April 2015 lunar eclipse, but unfortunately, no astrophotographers had any luck.

Thanks again to Thierry Legault for sharing his incredible work with Universe Today. Check out his website for additional imagery and information.

You can also see some of Legault’s beautiful and sometimes ground-breaking astrophotography here on Universe Today, such as images of the space shuttle or International Space Station crossing the Sun or Moon, or views of spy satellites in orbit.

If you want to try and master the art of astrophotography, you can learn from Legault by reading his book, “Astrophotography,” which is available on Amazon in a large format book or as a Kindle edition for those who might like to have a lit version while out in the field. It is also available at book retailers like Barnes and Noble and Shop Indie bookstores, or from the publisher, Rocky Nook, here.

Thierry Legault Meets His Own Challenge: Image an ISS Transit of a Solar Prominence

When you’re Thierry Legault and you want to challenge yourself, the bar is set pretty high.

“This is a challenge I imagined some time ago,” Legault told Universe Today via email, “but I needed all the right conditions.”

The challenge? Capture a transit of the International Space Station of not just the Sun — which he’s done dozens of times — but in front of a solar prominence.

Legault said the transit of the prominence, which he captured on August 21, 2015, lasted 0.8 seconds. His camera was running at 40 frames per second, and he got about 32 shots in that time.

See a video of the transit in real time, and more, below:

We’ve described in our previous articles how Legault determines the exact location where he needs to be to capture the images he wants by considering the width of the visibility path, and trying to be as close to the center of the path as possible. But this challenge was a bit different.

“I took the last transit data from Calsky, the real position of the prominences, and made angles and distances calculations to place my telescope this time not on the central line of the transit but 1 mile north from it,” Legault said, “to have the ISS passing in front of the largest prominence.”

You can see some of Legault’s stunning and sometimes ground-breaking astrophotography here on Universe Today, such as images of the space shuttle or International Space Station crossing the Sun or Moon, or views of spy satellites in orbit.

If you want to try and master the art of astrophotography, you can learn from Legault by reading his book, “Astrophotography,” which is available on Amazon in a large format book or as a Kindle edition for those who might like to have a lit version while out in the field. It is also available at book retailers like Barnes and Noble and Shop Indie bookstores, or from the publisher, Rocky Nook, here.

For additional imagery and information, visit Legualt’s website.

Watch Jupiter Get Blasted by an Iridium Flare

Cue the “Space Invaders” sound effects! We’ve shared previously how astrophotographer Thierry Legault will travel anywhere to get a unique shot. He took this impressive but fun video of an Iridium 72 satellite flaring and passing in front of Jupiter, traveling to Oostende Beach at the North Sea in Belgium to capture this transit. He took both a wide angle view as well as the telescopic close-up view of Jupiter, and from the vantage point of Earth, it appears as though Jupiter gets blasted by the flare. In the zoomed-in view, even Jupiter’s moons are part of the scene.

You can almost hear the “pew-pew.”

Legault also shared a another recent video he shot of the Chinese Yaogan 6 satellite. “It is probably out of control, quickly tumbling with very bright and short flashes,” Legault said, and it has been tumbling for about a year. Yaogan 6 is a radar reconnaissance satellite launched by China in 2009. Legault said he did the tracking by hand with professional video tripod with a fluid head.

See more of Legault’s extraordinary astrophotography work at his website.

Thierry Legault Captures ISS Transit of the Sun — During Eclipse!

Thierry Legault has won today’s partial solar eclipse.

Known for his amazing shots of spacecraft transiting the Sun, today he captured the International Space Station passing in front of the Sun (and Moon)… DURING THE ECLIPSE.

The weather is always fine in Southern Spain…except during eclipse days!” Legault told Universe Today via email. “I had to drive a lot trying to find clear skies, finally the sky was covered with thick high clouds but I got the ISS passing in front of the Moon during the eclipse.”

Amazing!

“Double partial eclipse today!” Legault tweeted. “The Moon and #ISS in front of the Sun, taken from Spain.”

In a previous article on Universe Today, Legault shared how he figures out the best places to travel to from his home near Paris to get the absolute best shots:

“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, “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.

See more wonderful images of the eclipse at our gallery here. And see more of Thierry’s great work at his website.

Watch Formation-Flying Chinese ‘Yaogan’ Satellites Slip Silently Through the Stars

The list of amazing things that astrophotographer Thierry Legault captures with his camera keeps growing! This time, it’s a trio of hard-to see, formation-flying Chinese reconnaissance satellites called Yaogan.

“Yaogan triplets are Chinese reconnaissance satellites flying at 1,100 km in groups of 3, separated by about 100km (5°),” Legault explained to Universe Today.

In this video are two different ‘triplets’ of these satellites taken with Legault’s Sony A7s. First you’ll see the Yoagan 16 A/B/C passing through the sky field that includes M31, the Pleiades, the Hyades, the Orion nebula. Second is Yaogan 20 A/B/C passing over M31 just before disappearing in the shadow of the Earth.

“The magnitude of Yaogans is about 5, barely visible to the naked eye,” Legault said via email. “But sometimes they flare, as you can see in the beginning of the movie.”

The fine tracking Legault did of these objects is incredible, along with the detail of the stars and deep-sky objects. ?

Legault used Calsky – his go-to source for observing – to calculate where he would need to be to see these satellites crossing near the famous deep-sky objects. He drove about 100 km west of his home in Paris to capture this unique video.

According to Robert Christy at zarya.info, the Yaogan satellites are imaging satellites “with a government or military purpose. Some seem to carry optical payloads and others carry radar. There are also some launches into orbits very like the US NOSS satellites.”

Christy lists the tasks of these satellites as imaging for remote sensing for military or government photo-reconnaissance including for “natural resources surveys and, possibly, intelligence gathering. Specific tasks include land survey, crop yield assessment, and input to disaster monitoring and prevention plans.”

There have been 24 launches of these satellites since 2006, with one launching as recently as November 20, 2014. Four of the launches were for “triplets” of these satellites.

Find out more about these satellites at zarya.info.

As always, you can see more of Legault’s find astrophotgraphy at his website.
See our review of his newly translated book “Astrophotography” here.

Incredible Fast-Moving Aurora Captured in Real Time by Thierry Legault

Usually, videos that feature aurora are timelapse videos, in order to show the normally slow movements of the Northern and Southern Lights. But here are some incredibly fast-moving aurorae shown in real time, as seen by astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault. He was in Norway last week and said the fast-dancing, shimmering aurora were incredible.

“At moments they were so fast that 25 fps (frames per second) was not too much!” Legault said. “The second evening they were so bright that they appeared while the sky was still blue and I rushed to setup the tripod.”

See two videos below, one short version (8 minutes) and another longer 20-minute version. They are worth watching every minute!

He used Sony A7 video cameras, and said these movies show the true rhythm of the aurora, in addition with twinkling stars and trees moving in the wind.

“In the long version there are even several satellites slowly moving amongst the stars and 2 or 3 elusive shooting stars,” Legault told Universe Today. “Many constellations are visible, especially Cassiopeia with the double cluster, the Big Dipper, Cygnus, Lyra, Gemini.”

He added that the aurorae had an incredible variety of shapes and behaviors.

See more imagery on Legault’s website.

Watch the Space Station Zip Across the Sun: Incredible New Views from Thierry Legault

Take a look at the incredible detail in the latest work from astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault. He captured images of the International Space Station transiting in front of the Sun in September 2014, and visible in the images are several of the visiting docked spacecraft (at one point in September there were 5 ships parked at the Station). Clearly visible are the ATV-5 ‘Georges Lemaitre,’ the Soyuz 39 and the Progress 56.

Wow!

Keep in mind, an ISS transit lasts less than a second (.7 seconds to be exact — and is shown in real time in the video above) and capturing the event in images must be timed with ultimate precision. Legault has captured a detailed night passage of the ISS, as well. See images below.

Legault used his Celestron C14 EdgeHD to capture these images, and for the solar transit of ISS, he used both both H-alpha and white light filters.

In a previous Universe Today article, Legault explained how he studies maps, and will travel thousands of kilometers to be in the right place to capture such a transit. He uses a radio synchronized watch to know very accurately when the transit event will happen.

His camera has a continuous shuttering for 4 seconds, and he begins the imaging sequence 2 seconds before the calculated time.

“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, “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.”

Solar transit of the International Space Station with the ATV-5 'Georges Lemaitre' docked, in September 2014. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
Solar transit of the International Space Station with the ATV-5 ‘Georges Lemaitre’ docked, in September 2014. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

See more images and information at Thierry’s website, and we thank him for sharing his work with Universe Today.

Detailed imagery of the International Space Station captured from the ground. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
Detailed imagery of the International Space Station captured from the ground. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.