China's Space Station Snapped Racing Across Sun

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White light image of the solar transit of the Chinese Shenzhou-10 module docked to the Tiangong-1 prototype space station, taken from Southern France on June 17, 2013. Click image to enlarge.
Thierry Legault, astrophoto.fr (Used With Permission)

From his vantage point from Southern France, ace astrophotographer Thierry Legault trained his Takahashi TOA-150 refracting telescope at the sun and, at precisely the right moment, captured the Chinese Tiangong-1 prototype space station (plus docked Shenzhou-10 module) as it transited the solar disk on June 16.

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The transit took less than half a second to complete as the Chinese outpost raced across the sky at an orbital velocity of 16,500 miles per hour. The station is at an altitude of around 230 miles.

The photograph above shows the "Star Wars" Tie Fighter-like silhouette of the solar paneled Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-10, home to 3 Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping. Through a white light filter, Legault also captured the fine detail of sunspots plus granulation in the sun's photosphere.

Hydrogen-alpha image of the solar transit of the Chinese Shenzhou-10 module docked to the Tiangong-1 prototype space station, taken from Southern France on June 17, 2013. Click image to enlarge.
Thierry Legault, astrophoto.fr

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In a second image taken on the following day (June 17), Legault used a hydrogen-alpha filter and snapped a series of images through the entire second transit of the space station. For this attempt he had a high-speed camera attached to the telescope, grabbing images at 38 frames per second.

Both images are a testament to Legault's astrophotgraphy skills, more of which can be seen on his website Astrophoto.fr.