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Mir Sees Eclipse from Outer Space

by Roger Herzler (photo (c) CNES)

08/19/1999 The Mir Space StationMir Space Station got an unprecidented view of the August 11, 1999 total solar eclipse that traveled across Europe. This is just down-right exciting, hence the posting here. The photo was taken by spationaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré and the copyright is held by CNES. Clear skies!

Update 09/03/1999 Its been asked what those two "objects" are in the top left corner of the image. Some suggestions include space junk or even stars. After some postulating and investigating by myself and other folks on the Astro List, a case has been made that they are the planets Jupiter and Saturn. According to CNES (the French space agency) this photo was taken by the French spationaut on board Mir at exactly 10h13m Universal Time. That puts the eclipse at around 50N 05W (latitude & longitude), or in the head waters of the English Channel. When the appropriate times and locations are entered into SkyMap (and other planetarium packages from folks on the Astro List) both Jupiter and Saturn are right on the money for that shot. In addition, Bill Arnett of the Astro List made this observation:

"And Mir was above France's Massif Central. When I tell Starry Night to put me at that time and place I clearly see the English channel and, sure enough, Jupiter and Saturn in the correct orientation above the horizon and the Moon shadow."

So, while its not conclusive (only the photographer might know for sure), a good case can be made that the two objects in the frame are in fact Jupiter and Saturn, both of whom were (and still are) bright enough in our skies to take a good photograph of.

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