Total solar eclipse captured from one million miles away •

Total solar eclipse captured from one million miles away

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features a rare view of the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

The image was captured about one million miles from Earth by NASA’s EPIC (Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera) imager on the DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) satellite.

The shadow of the moon swept across North America from the Pacific coast of Mexico to the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Viewing a very active sun

“As people in the 115-mile-wide (185-kilometer-wide) path of totality looked up and saw the moon conceal the bright orb of the sun and obscure all but its wispy corona, Earth-observing satellites captured imagery of the Moon’s shadow as it raced eastward over North America,” said NASA.

“Observers on the ground had a rare view of the sun’s active outer atmosphere, or corona. Glowing loops of plasma called solar prominences could also be seen extending into the corona. Plasma is super-hot ionized gas which flows along the tangled and twisted structure of the Sun’s magnetic fields.”

Approaching a solar maximum 

During a live broadcast of the eclipse from Dallas, NASA research scientist Michael Kirk noted that “this view of the corona will never happen again, ever.” 

Kirk explained that the spiky and asymmetrical nature of the corona was a sign that the sun’s magnetic field was active and approaching solar maximum.

The next total solar eclipse to travel from coast to coast across the United States will be in 2045.

What is a total solar eclipse?

A total solar eclipse is a celestial event that occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun, completely obscuring the sun from view for a viewer on Earth. This alignment of the sun, moon, and Earth is known as syzygy. 

During a total solar eclipse, the moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the sun’s, blocking all direct sunlight, and turning day into darkness. The sudden darkness of a total eclipse allows viewers to observe the solar corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun, which is usually hidden by the bright light of the sun’s photosphere.

Total solar eclipses are relatively rare at any given location on Earth because the shadow of the moon (known as the umbra) that casts on the Earth’s surface is very small compared to the Earth’s surface area, and the path of totality (the path the shadow traces) is narrow

DSCVR is a joint NASA, NOAA, and U.S. Air Force satellite built to observe our planet from Lagrange Point 1, a gravitationally stable position between the Sun and Earth.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory


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