Here’s what a total eclipse looks like from 22,236 miles away in space as the moon’s shadow crosses Earth’s face

By Tom Yulsman | March 12, 2016 12:54 pm

Also check out the view from a million miles away!


As the shadow of a total solar eclipse moved across the Pacific on March 9, 2016, the Himawari-8 satellite was watching from geostationary orbit. (Source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.)

This past Wednesday, March 9, 2016, the Moon blotted out the Sun in a total eclipse, turning day to dusk starting in Sumatra, moving east across many other Indonesian islands, and then out into the wide Pacific Ocean.

In paces with clear skies, the view from the surface was spectacular. So was the view from an airliner high above the Pacific.

But how did it look from geostationary orbit —22,236 miles out in space — looking down on Earth? Have a look by watching the animation above. It consists of images acquired by the Himawari-8 satellite. They were compiled into the animation by the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Yasuhiko Sumida, a visiting scientist at the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin.

In the video, the shadow of the Moon enters the frame at lower left just as day was dawning over the large island of Sumatra. The shadow progresses to the northeast and then passes beyond the satellite’s view. (The sequence repeats three times in total.)

Another satellite also captured the action, but this one from a much more distant perch — 1 million miles away:


An animation of images acquired by the DSCOVR satellite 1 million miles from Earth shows the progress of the total eclipse on March 9, 2016. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

The animation consists of 13 images acquired by NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory. DSCOVR is at the L1 Lagrange Point, or L1, which is four times farther away than the orbit of the Moon. Here, the gravitational pull of the Sun and Earth cancel out, allowing DSCOVR to keep a continuous bead on our planet.

That view proved to be perfect on March 9 as the shadow of the moon marched across the face of the rotating Earth. The action was captured by DSCOVR’s four-megapixel Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, or EPIC, mated to a Cassegrain telescope.

Quoted in a post at NASA’s Earth Observatory site, Adam Szabo, NASA’s project scientist for DSCOVR noted this:

What is unique for us is that being near the Sun-Earth line, we follow the complete passage of the lunar shadow from one edge of the Earth to the other.

Okay, now it’s time to check out what the reverse view looked like — meaning toward the Sun, as seen from space:


The moon passes in front of the Sun in the solar eclipse of March 9, 2016, as seen in an animation of images acquired by the Hinode satellite. (Source: NASA)

The video above shows what the eclipse looked like to the X-Ray Telescope on the Hinode satellite. Hinode is an international mission dedicated to understanding how magnetic energy arises, moves and dissipates within the Sun’s atmosphere.

In the animation, the Sun is seen in the x-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The bright gold in the images reveals the hottest plasma in the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona. This stuff is at temperatures above 2 million degrees.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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