Eclipses From Orbit

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In another view of Tuesday’s partial solar eclipse, the European Space Agency’s Proba-2 satellite captured this video of the Moon passing in front of the Sun from its position in low-Earth orbit. Taken in extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light, best for observing details of the Sun’s corona, Proba-2 caught the transit and then passed into Earth’s shadow itself (when the video goes dark) establishing an alignment of Sun, Moon, Earth and satellite!

“This is a notable event. It is a nice exercise to model the orbit and relative positions of all three celestial bodies.”

– Bogdan Nicula, Royal Observatory of Belgium

One of the smallest satellites flown by ESA Proba-2 is only about 3′ (1m) square. The SWAP imager aboard – which took the video above – is only about the size of a shoebox.

The morning of January 4th brought us the first of six eclipses visible in 2011, that one a partial solar eclipse seen over Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia. There will be three more partial solar eclipse and two total lunar eclipses this year. (See a schedule here.) Another spectacular orbital view of the event was witnessed by Japan’s Hinode (pronounced hee-n0-day) satellite as well…that video can be seen below, or read more about it on Discover’s Bad Astronomy blog here.

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BTW, for those who may wonder why the Sun seems less active then normal in these videos…the time scale of the eclipse is too quick to see much happening on the Sun. Most hi-res solar surface videos are at least 10-15 minutes of real time per frame, greatly enhancing the apparent motion of solar surface activity but too fast for observing a smooth transit.

Videos courtesy of ESA and  JAXA, NAOJ, PPARC and NASA.

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