Monday, June 25, 2012

Photo: Docked Space Shuttle and Station Cross the Sun

A French photographer has captured a stunning photo of the space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station crossing the face of the sun.

You couldn’t just aim your digital camera at the sky and get results like this. Thierry Legault, who is known for his amazing astronomical imagery, uses specialized solar filters to capture the images.

When the shuttle docked with the ISS on July 15, the combined crews set a new record for space-vehicle occupancy. The 13 people aboard the station are the most that have been aboard the same vehicle in space. The astronauts have installed a “porch” on the space station for space-exposed experiments. The new addition effectively completes the Japanese Kibo laboratory.

Astronauts are deploying a variety of other scientific installations, too. One public-interest project, the Tomatosphere II, exposes millions of tomato seeds to space, which are then returned to Earth and distributed to classrooms across North America.

If you like Legault’s photograph, make sure to check out his other work, including his shot of the space shuttle Atlantis solo-transiting the sun.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Viewing the Transit of Venus From Space

Transit of Venus From Space
Observations of the Transit of Venus during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries allowed scientists to calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun, while revealing the existence of an atmosphere around Venus. Since the previous pair of transits of Venus in 1874 and 1882, humans have developed the ability to view the phenomena from space -- both directly from low-Earth orbit and remotely from sensors on spacecraft collecting data about the Sun.

Astronaut Don Pettit, flight engineer for International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 31, was particularly keen to take photos of the event from orbit -- even bringing a solar camera filter aboard for the event. This top image, from the first half of the 2012 transit, is one of hundreds taken from the ISS Cupola, a windowed module that provides the crew with unparalleled views of both Earth and astronomical phenomena.

In fact, history will record the ISS as the first orbital, crewed spacecraft from which the Transit of Venus has been observed. In addition to the dark circle of Venus visible at image upper left, several smaller sunspots are visible at image center.

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