The Most Unique Eclipse Image You’ll Ever See

by Nancy Atkinson on June 12, 2013

This is an image of a unique eclipse as viewed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, with a model of the moon from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter replacing the lunar shadow. Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC

This is an image of a unique eclipse as viewed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, with a model of the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter replacing the lunar shadow. Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC

You’ve probably never before seen an image like the one above. That’s because it is the first time something like this has ever been created, and it is only possible thanks to two fairly recent NASA missions, the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. We’ve shared previously how two or three times a year, SDO goes through “eclipse season” where it observes the Moon traveling across the Sun, blocking its view.

Now, Scott Wiessinger and Ernie Wright from Goddard Space Flight Center’s Scientific Visualization Studio used SDO and LRO data to create a model of the Moon that exactly matches SDO’s perspective of a lunar transit from October 7, 2010. They had to precisely match up data from the correct time and viewpoint for the two separate spacecraft, and the end result is this breathtaking image of the Sun and the Moon.

“The results look pretty neat,” Wiessinger said via email, “and it’s a great example of everything working: SDO image header data, which contains the spacecraft’s position; our information about lunar libration, elevation maps of the lunar surface, etc. It all lines up very nicely.”

‘Nicely’ is an understatement. How about “freaking awesome!”

And of course, they didn’t just stop there.

his is an up close shot of two NASA images: An image rendered from a model of the moon from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter overlaid onto an image of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, during a lunar transit as seen by SDO on Oct. 7, 2010. The various features of the moon’s horizon are labeled. Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC

his is an up close shot of two NASA images: An image rendered from a model of the moon from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter overlaid onto an image of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, during a lunar transit as seen by SDO on Oct. 7, 2010. The various features of the moon’s horizon are labeled. Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC

Since the data from both spacecraft are at such high resolution, if you zoom in to the LRO image, features of the Moon’s topography are visible, such as mountains and craters. This annotated image shows what all is visible on the Moon. And then there’s the wonderful and completely unique view in the background of SDO’s data of the Sun.

So while the imagery is awesome, this exercise also means that both missions are able to accurately provide images of what’s happening at any given moment in time.

Beautiful. See more imagery and info at this SVS page.

The image on the left is a view of the sun captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Oct. 7, 2010, while partially obscured by the moon. Looking closely at the crisp horizon of the moon against the sun shows the outline of lunar mountains. A model of the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been inserted into a picture on the right, showing how perfectly the moon's true topography fits into the shadow observed by SDO. Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC

The image on the left is a view of the sun captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Oct. 7, 2010, while partially obscured by the moon. Looking closely at the crisp horizon of the moon against the sun shows the outline of lunar mountains. A model of the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been inserted into a picture on the right, showing how perfectly the moon’s true topography fits into the shadow observed by SDO. Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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