Greek astronomer clicks Chinese space station Tiangong transiting Sun - Hindustan Times

Greek astronomer clicks Chinese space station Tiangong transiting Sun

By | Edited by Aryan Prakash
Aug 31, 2023 10:57 PM IST

Greek astronomer captures images of Chinese space station Tiangong passing in front of the sun.

An amateur astronomer from Greece has taken a remarkable picture of the Chinese space station Tiangong as it passed in front of the sun, revealing intricate details of the spacecraft.

 Chinese Space Station Tiangong transits the Sun.(Anthony Ayiomamitis)
Chinese Space Station Tiangong transits the Sun.(Anthony Ayiomamitis)

Anthony Ayiomamitis, who resides in Athens, managed to capture an image of the 96,000 kg space station as it transited the Sun on Tuesday. The transit lasted for a brief 0.69 seconds.

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Why are satellite transit images significant?

Sharing the image of the space station's passage, which also reveals sunspots, the space enthusiast explained that these transits offer a fortunate observer the opportunity to perceive greater physical details and structure due to the spacecraft's outline against the bright backdrop of the sun or moon.

How challenging is it to track satellite transits?

The astronomer noted that it took years before he could successfully spot it. “With the launch of the Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1 module in 2011 and the Tiangong-2 module in 2016, a new challenge presented itself and where a small number of transit opportunities have presented themselves involving both the Sun and Moon.”

However, orbital manoeuvres and weather conditions play a crucial role in these events and have often posed significant obstacles. "On August 29, everything seemingly came together thanks to a stable orbit, favourable weather conditions and the very good altitude of Sun which finally permitted for the pursuit,” he added.

Chinese Space Station Tiangong | Key Details

The Chinese Space Station Tiangong, meaning "Sky Palace," represents China's most recent venture into space, succeeding the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 modules. It presently weighs 96,000 kg and measures 55.6 meters in length and 39.0 meters in width. Future plans involve expanding the station from its current three modules to a total of six modules, with the fourth module ("Xuntian") tentatively set for launch in 2024.

Tiangong orbits Earth at an altitude ranging from 340 to 450 kilometres, similar to the International Space Station (ISS). Tiangong is smaller than the ISS, as it has only three modules compared to the ISS's 16 modules. Furthermore, Tiangong is significantly lighter than the ISS. Notably, China is not a participant in the International Space Station programme.

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