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The November 2012 Solar Eclipse, as Seen 3 Times by Satellite [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Yesterday’s total solar eclipse, the last until 2015, was visible to precious few. The path of the total eclipse barely skimmed northern Australia and otherwise fell only on the South Pacific Ocean. A far greater number of sky-watchers were treated to a partial solar eclipse, in which the moon covers only a portion of the sun’s face. In fact, the shadow of the partial eclipse happened to fall in an area through which the European Space Agency satellite Proba-2 would cross three times as the spacecraft orbited Earth.

The video below from Proba-2, a solar-observation and space-weather satellite, shows all three of the spacecraft’s partial eclipses as they appeared in ultraviolet light. During the first eclipse, Proba-2 only saw the moon obstruct a sliver of the solar disk, but on the third and final eclipse, the sun, the moon and Proba-2 were more closely aligned, providing the spacecraft with a near-total eclipse.

Proba-2 keeps a constant watch on the sun, but sometimes a different kind of celestial conjunction interferes—in the video, the sun occasionally dims as the spacecraft passes through Earth’s shadow. And every so often the Proba-2 camera registers a burst of staticky activity, the result of the spacecraft passing through the South Atlantic Anomaly, where the charged particles trapped in the Van Allen Belts encircling Earth penetrate to low altitudes.

About the Author: John Matson is an associate editor at Scientific American focusing on space, physics and mathematics. Follow on Twitter @jmtsn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. TazTalksYouListen 6:35 pm 11/14/2012

    our solar system is cool.

    Link to this

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