Today’s Solar Eclipse As Seen From Space and the Ground

solar eclipse 2012
Partial solar eclipse in 2012. Credit: NASA

Parts of Southern Africa and much of Antarctica enjoyed a partial solar eclipse this morning. According to NASA, about 80 percent of the sun was covered in this morning’s solar eclipse.

Here are a few images of today’s partial solar eclipse

And I’m saving the coolest for last. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured something that’s only possible in space. The Moon, Earth and Sun in the same image!

partial solar eclipse SDO

You see how the top of the sun is obstructed just a bit on the top left image? That’s us. Here’s a simulation video from YouTube user Teridon showing the orientation of the SDO, Earth, Moon and Sun.

Today’s solar eclipse looked fantastic, but scientists get more pumped during a total solar eclipse. Why? Because the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, becomes visible.

The size and distance differences between the sun are just right for the corona to be visible during a total solar eclipse. Let’s take a deeper look. The diameter of the sun is about 400 times that of the moon. And the sun is about 400 times farther away from us than the moon. This makes them appear to be about the same size to us.

“During a total solar eclipse, the moon is a near-perfect fit for the sun’s disk, so almost all of the corona is visible,” said Jack Ireland, a solar physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

For scientists, that means even better views of the sun’s inner corona than is possible via satellites.

The next total solar eclipse will be on March 9 in parts of Indonesia. But, it’s the total solar eclipse in 2017 that many people will never forget. On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible in areas stretching from East Coast to the West Coast. The last time a solar eclipse stretched across the entire United States was in 1918.

NASA put together a visualization showing where totality (when the moon completely covers the sun) occurs.

Do you live near the red line? I’ll be taking a trip to Tennessee that day.

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