The Other End of an Eclipse

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As the annular eclipse on May 20 sent skywatchers around the globe gazing upwards to see the Sun get darkened by the Moon’s silhouette, NASA’s Terra satellite caught the other side of the event: the Moon’s shadow striking the Earth!

Cast across 240,000 miles of space, the lunar shadow darkened a circular swatch 300 km (185 miles) wide over the northern Pacific Ocean in this image, acquired by the Earth-observing Terra satellite’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) at 20:30 UT on Sunday, May 20.

From the NASA Earth Observatory site:

Where the Moon passed in front of the Sun, Earth’s surface appeared black (left half of image). Around the margins of the shadow, our planet’s surface appeared yellowish brown. The shadow cast by an eclipse consists of two parts, the completely shadowed umbra and the partially shadowed penumbra.

The eclipse was first visible over eastern Asia and moved across the globe, later becoming visible on the west coast of the US. Known as an annular eclipse, even in totality there was a bright ring of Sun visible around the Moon — a result of the Moon’s elliptical orbit. The effect was dramatic, and was captured in some amazing photos from viewers around the world (as well as by a few above the world!)

Looking at Earth during the Annular Solar Eclipse of May 20, 2012, photographed by Don Pettit from the International Space Station at 23:36 GMT. (NASA)

Although there were a few images being circulated online of the “eclipse” that were not actual photos, be assured that these are the real deal.

And the next eclipse event? That will occur on November 13 of this year, when a total eclipse will be visible from Australia, the South Pacific and South America. Watch an animation of the Nov. 13 eclipse visibility here.

Top image: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response.

Jason Major

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

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