Oh man oh man, do I love this picture:
OK, so you look at it and say, “So what? It’s a picture of the quiet Sun seen in overcast conditions. Big deal!”
Ah, but a big deal it is. See those spots in the lower left quadrant of our nearest star? Those aren’t sunspots… here, let me show you what those are:
Yes, that is in fact the Space Shuttle Atlantis silhouetted against the Sun. But wait, there’s something else, isn’t there. What’s that spot below the Shuttle?
That, me droogs, is the Hubble Space Telescope. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
The exceptionally gifted astrophotographer Thierry Legault captured this stunning tableau just minutes before the crew of Atlantis caught up with and captured Hubble for its very last servicing mission on May 13, 2009. This shot has never been accomplished before, and it’s magnificent. He used a 13 cm telescope, and camera that took a series of 16 images of 1/8000th of second each.
If the style and photographer’s name are familiar, it’s because I chose a similar image from Legault of the ISS and Shuttle as #5 of my Top Ten Astronomy Images of 2006. He’s good, and he may very well be the only person to get in my Top Ten list twice… but there’s still many months left to make up my mind.
Until then, check out this other Shuttle+Sun image he took, posted by NASA on Flickr. Wow. That’s right out of Star Trek.