The Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) took advantage of its unique vantage spot in space to capture stunning images of a partial solar eclipse.
The NASA satellite photographed the moon passing in front of the sun yesterday at about 1:20 AM ET and the celestial event was only visible to the SDO.
The transit lasted for about 35 minutes and at its peak, the moon covered 67 percent of the star’s fiery surface.
The spacecraft then returned a series of images of the event that showed “lunar mountains backlit by solar fire,” reports Space Weather.
Bumps and irregularities can be seen on the moon’s surface as it passed by that have been identified as part of the Leibnitz and Doerfel mountain ranges.
Patricio Leon, from Santiago, Chile, compared the close-up images of the moon moving across the sun to a topography map from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
He was able to identify the Leibnitz and Doerfel mountain ranges near the moon’s south pole during the eclipse.
“At the peak of the eclipse, the Moon covered 67 percent of the sun, and lunar mountains were backlit by solar fire,” writes Space Weather.
“High-resolution images like these can help the SDO science team better understand the telescope. They reveal how light diffracts around SDO’s optics and filter support grids.
“Once these are calibrated, it is possible to correct SDO data for instrumental effects and sharpen images of the sun even more than before.”
What is the Solar Dynamics Observatory?
Launched in 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory monitors the sun with a fleet of spacecraft, snapping pictures of it every 0.75 seconds.
It also studies the sun’s magnetic field, atmosphere, sunspots, and other aspects that influence activity during the 11-year solar cycle.
The sun has been experiencing heightened activity for some months as it appears to be moving into a particularly active period of its 11-year cycle, which began in 2019 and is expected to peak in 2025.
The sun’s magnetic poles flip at the peak of the solar activity cycle, and a solar wind composed of charged particles carries the magnetic field away from the sun’s surface and through the solar system.
This accompanies an increase in solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the sun’s surface.
A CME is a significant release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the sun’s corona, the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere, into the solar wind.
CMEs only impact Earth when they’re aimed in our planet’s direction, and tend to be much slower than solar flares as they move a greater amount of matter.
Image credits: Photos courtesy of NASA.