NASA's sun-watching telescope sees solar eclipse


Posted: February 22, 2012

There was a solar eclipse Tuesday, but it was only visible from space.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught spectacular views of the moon passing between the Earth and the sun, appearing to take a bite out of the fiery star.

Mission officials called it a Pac-Man sun in a post to @Camilla_SDO, the Twitter account of SDO's mascot.

SDO sees a solar eclipse several times a year. Also called lunar transits, these events generate not only stunning imagery, but they also provide unique science opportunities, according to NASA.

"It was a fairly shallow transit, but the moon covered a bright active region," said Dean Pesnell, SDO project scientist, in a blog posting. "This caused a dip in the EVE output and may allow scientists to calibrate the energy emitted by the active region."

The active region is called AR1422 and is slightly larger than Earth.

The EVE sensor is one of three instruments on the $848 million mission. It monitors the extreme ultraviolet irradiance from the sun.

Tuesday's transit was not visible from Earth. The observatory monitored the eclipse from its perch 22,300 miles above Earth's equator.

SDO is a cornerstone mission to investigate the links between solar activity and life on Earth.

Venus will transit the sun over a two-day period in early June, an event sure to produce more cool images from SDO, Pesnell said.

SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument captured this view of the moon and sun at 1427 GMT (9:27 a.m. EST) Tuesday. Credit: NASA/Lockheed Martin


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