Spacecraft Witnesses Solar Eclipse x 3

by Nancy Atkinson on November 14, 2012

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On the ground, the total solar eclipse of November 13/14, 2012 was only visible to only to observers in northern Australia. But ESA’s Sun-watching satellite Proba-2 enjoyed three partial eclipses from its vantage point in space.

During a total solar eclipse, the Moon moves in front of the Sun as seen from Earth, their alignment and separation such that the much closer Moon appears large enough to block out the light from the much more distant Sun.

Since Proba-2 orbits Earth about 14.5 times per day, it can dip in and out of the Moon’s shadow around the time of a solar eclipse. The constant change in viewing angle of Proba-2 meant that the satellite passed through the shadow three times during the eclipse yesterday, as shown in the video above.

ESA says the apparent noise in the movie results from high energy particles hitting Proba-2′s electronics as the spacecraft passes through the South Atlantic Anomaly. The dimming in the movie is an effect as part of the satellite’s orbit passes through the shadow of the Earth.

Proba-2 image of the solar disc taken during the total eclipse of July 2010, combined with ground-based images taken at the same time to reveal the exquisite details of the solar corona. Credit: ESA

Read more about Proba-2′s day of eclipses from ESA.

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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