Amazing Views of Today’s Total Solar Eclipse From Earth… and Space

There’s an old Robert Heinlein saying that goes “climate is what you expect, weather is what you get,” And the weather certainly kept folks guessing right up until the start of today’s eclipse. And though much of the UK and tracks along the Faroe Islands were clouded out, folks who made the trek up to Svalbard were treated to a fine view of totality, while observers across Europe caught stages of the eclipse through its partial phases. Many more managed to capture glimpses of the eclipse thanks to our good friends over at Slooh and the Virtual Telescope project.

Here’s a quick sampling of images that have come our way thus far… we’ll be dropping in more as they become available from far flung corners of the globe and beyond:

Totality! Captured from the (thankfully sunny) Svalbard Islands. Credit and Copyright: Tony Hoffman.
Totality! Captured from the (thankfully sunny) Svalbard Islands. Credit and Copyright: Tony Hoffman.
Credit and copyright: @johnmason1971
Practicing solar eclipse observing safety… Credit and copyright: @johnmason1971

Though the live feed from the International Space Station was unavailable as the astros flirted with the Moon’s umbra, the crew did manage to get some quick shots of the eclipse from low Earth orbit:

They caught it! The eclipse captured from the International Space Station courtesy of @astrosamantha.
They caught it! The eclipse captured from the International Space Station courtesy of @astrosamantha.
The umbra touches down at the start of the total solar eclipse as seen from the ISS. Credit: @Astrosamantha
The umbra touches down at the start of the total solar eclipse as seen from the ISS. Credit: @Astrosamantha

And while the fake “eclipse seen from SPACE!!!” image made its predictable rounds, ESA’s solar observing Proba-2 spaccraft caught the eclipse from space for real:

No word yet if anyone caught the ‘money shot’ of the International Space Station transiting the Sun during the eclipse as seen from southern Spain.

UPDATE: Scratch that… Theirry Legault did indeed capture the ISS transiting the partially eclipsed Sun:

Awesome!

Totality from a balloon (!) over Svalbard. Courtesy and Credit: zero2infinity.
Totality from a balloon (!) over Svalbard. The team also has an exciting indiegogo project and hopes to make a film of the eclipse. Courtesy and Credit: @flyabloon/zero2infinity.

And while many observers and events were clouded out, many still noted the drop in ambient light levels.

Credit and Copyright:
Credit and Copyright: TheMagster3.

The Sun was relatively blank during the eclipse, with one lone sunspot group currently turned Earthward saving us from spotlessness.

Credit and copyright: @DavidBflower
Credit and copyright: @DavidBflower

As of this writing, more eclipse pics are still pouring in. Watch this space, as many eclipse chasers —especially those who traveled to distant Svalbard to witness totality in person — are still making their way in from the field and are no doubt hunting for stable internet connections as we speak.

Credit and copyright: @Whereisyvette
Awaiting clear skies on the roof of the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Credit and copyright: @Whereisyvette

And as always, the big question after every eclipse is: when’s the next one? Well, the next total solar occurs over Southeast Asia on March 9th, 2016, and the very next solar eclipse is a partial over South Africa on Sept 13 2015. And North America gets to see another total lunar eclipse in the ongoing tetrad in just two weeks on April 4th, 2015… and we’re well inside two years away now from the total solar eclipse spanning the continental united States on August 21st 2017!

Credit and copyright
An Iphone capture of the eclipse. Credit and copyright: @zubenelganubi

Let the first of two eclipse seasons for 2015 begin!

Read Dave Dickinson’s eclipse-fueled scifi tales Shadowfall and Exeligmos.

Update: although it was cloudy, Marco Langbroek did indeed catch the drop in light levels over the Netherlands:

And check out this amazing Vine of the dark umbra of the Moon crossing the North Atlantic courtesy of Meteosat-9:

Wowsa!

And sometimes, the simplest shots are the easiest to get out over social media immediately, be it at a rocket launch or during a solar eclipse:

A back of the camera shot of the eclipse as seen from northern Scotland. Credit: Edwin Quail.
A back of the camera shot of the eclipse as seen from northern Scotland. Credit: Edwin Quail.

There also been no word as of yet how Germany’s solar power grid fared during the eclipse, though it will be interesting to see what possible data was generated during the partial phases for future planning.

Partial phases of the solar eclipse today as seen from the United Kingdom. Credit and copyright: Sarah and Simon Fisher.
Partial phases of the solar eclipse today as seen from the United Kingdom. Credit and copyright: Sarah and Simon Fisher.

It was truly inspiring to see how many folks captured images and filled our feeds this morning with pictures of today’s eclipse.

The partial eclipse peeks out from behind the clouds over the Greek Embassy . Credit and copyright: clausdm @cldm_ish
The partial eclipse peeks out from behind the clouds over the Greek Embassy . Credit and copyright: clausdm @cldm_ish

Can’t wait til 2017? NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is set give us a total solar eclipse from the edge of the solar system this July when it flies through the shadows of Pluto and its giant moon, Charon:

An artist's concept of New Horizons in the shadow on Pluto. Credit: NASA/JPL.
An artist’s concept of New Horizons in the shadow on Pluto. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Hey, maybe if we colonize Pluto by 2017 AD, we could witness said eclipses… in person, once every 6 days:

“Pluto One,” anyone?

Parallax in action: the view from Lahore Pakistan vs Slooh's view shortly before totality. Credit:  Roshaan. Lahore Astronomical Society, Pakistan.
Parallax in action: the view from Lahore Pakistan vs Slooh’s view shortly before totality. Credit: Roshaan.
Lahore Astronomical Society, Pakistan.
A 6% partial solar eclipse as seen from Israel. Credit and copyright: Gadi Eidelheit.
A 6% partial solar eclipse as seen from Israel. Credit and copyright: Gadi Eidelheit.
The March 20, 2015 solar eclipse taken from Malta with a PST solar telescope  in H-alpha. Credit and copyright: Leonard Mercer.
The March 20, 2015 solar eclipse taken from Malta with a PST solar telescope in H-alpha. Credit and copyright: Leonard Mercer.

REAL Images of Eclipses Seen From Space

That ‘amazing astro-shot that isn’t’ is making the rounds of ‘ye ole web again.

You know the one. “See an Amazing Image of an Eclipse… From SPACE!!!” screams the breathless headline, with the all-too-perfect image of totality over the limb of the Earth, with the Milky Way thrown in behind it for good measure.

As the old saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sure, the pic is a fake, and it’s been debunked many, many times since it was first released into the wild a few years back. But never let reality get in the way of a good viral meme. As eclipse season 2 of 2 gets underway tonight with a total lunar eclipse followed by a partial solar eclipse on October 23rd both visible from North America, the image is once again making its rounds. But there’s a long history of authentic captures of eclipses from space that are just as compelling. We’ve compiled just such a roll call of real images of eclipses seen from space:

SDO
A partial solar eclipse as captured by SDO. Credit: NASA/SDO.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Launched in 2010, The Solar Dynamics Observatory or SDO is NASA’s premier orbiting solar observatory. But unlike Sun-staring satellites based in low Earth orbit, SDO’s geosynchronous orbit assures that it tends to see a cycle of partial solar eclipses twice a year, roughly around the equinoxes. And like many satellites, SDO also passes into the Earth’s shadow as well, offering unique views of a solar eclipse by the limb of the Earth from its vantage point.

JAXA
The Moon ‘photobombs’ the view of Hinode. Credit: NASA/JAXA.

Hinode:

A joint mission between NASA and JAXA (the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) launched in 2006, Hinode observes the Sun from low Earth orbit. As a consequence, it nearly has a similar vantage point as terrestrial viewers and frequently nabs passages of the Moon as solar eclipses occur. Such events, however, are fleeting; moving at about eight kilometres per second, such eclipses last only seconds in duration!

ESA
Catching the passage of the Moon during a brief partial eclipse. Credit: ESA.

Proba-2:

Like Hinode, Proba-2 is the European Space Agency’s flagship solar observing spacecraft based in low Earth orbit. It also catches sight of the occasional solar eclipse, and these fleeting passages of the Moon in front of the Earth happen in quick multiple cycles. Recent images from Proba-2 are available online.

Eclipses from the ISS:

The International Space Station isn’t equipped to observe the Sun per se, but astronauts and cosmonauts aboard have managed to catch views of solar eclipses in an unusual way, as the umbra of the Moon crosses the surface of the Earth. Such a view also takes the motion of the ISS in low Earth orbit into account. Cosmonauts aboard the late Mir space station also caught sight of the August 11th, 1999, total solar eclipse over Europe.

NASA GOES
NASA’ s GOES-WEST spies the umbra of the Moon. Credit: NASA-GOES.

NASA-GOES:

Weather satellites can, and do, occasionally catch sight of the inky black dot of the Moon’s penumbra crossing the disk of the Earth.  GOES-West snapped the above image of the November 13th, 2012, solar eclipse. The umbra of the Moon’s shadow races about 1700 kilometres per hour from west to east during an eclipse, and we can expect some interesting images in 2017 when the next total solar eclipse crosses the United States on August 21st, 2017.

NASA
An ‘Apollo eclipse!’ Credit: NASA.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project:

The final mission of Apollo program, the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, also yielded an unusual and little known effort to observe the Sun. The idea was to use the Apollo command module as a “coronagraph” and have cosmonauts image the Sun from the Soyuz as the Apollo spacecraft blocked it out after undocking. Unfortunately, the Apollo thrusters smeared the exposure, and it became a less than iconic— though unusual — view from the space age.

Gemini XII
A partial solar eclipse snapped by the crew of Gemini XII. Credit: NASA.

Gemini XII and the first eclipse seen from space:

On November 12th, 1966, a total solar eclipse graced South America. Astronauts James Lovell Jr. and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. were also in orbit at the time, and managed to snap the first image of a solar eclipse from space. Gemini XII was the last flight of the program, and the astronauts initially thought they’d missed the eclipse after a short trajectory burn.

ISS
The 2012 transit of Venus as seen from the ISS. Credit: NASA/Don Pettit.

ISS Astronauts catch a transit of Venus:

We were fortunate that the International Space Station had its very own amateur astronomer in residence in 2012 to witness the historic transit of Venus from space. NASA astronaut Don Pettit knew that the transit would occur during his rotation, and packed a full-aperture white light solar filter for the occasion. Of course, a planetary transit meets the very loosest definition of a partial eclipse, but it’s a unique capture nonetheless.

Kaguya:

Japan’s SELENE-Kaguya spacecraft entered orbit around the Moon in 2007 and provided some outstanding imagery of our solitary natural neighbor. On February 10th, 2009, it also managed to catch a high definition view of the Earth eclipsing the Sun as seen from lunar orbit. A rare catch, such an event occurs during every lunar eclipse as seen from the Earth.

Mars eclipse
Curiosity captures a misshapen eclipse from the surface of Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL.

An unusual eclipse… seen from Mars:

We’re fortunate to live in an epoch in time and space where total solar eclipses can occur as seen from the Earth. But bizarre eclipses and transits can also be seen from Mars. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers have witnessed brief transits of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos across the face of the Sun, and in 2010, the Curiosity rover recorded the passage of Phobos in front of the Sun in a bizarre-potato shaped “annular eclipse”. But beyond just the “coolness” factor, the event also helped researchers refine our understanding of orbital path of the Martian moon.

The future: It’s also interesting to think of what sort of astronomical wonders await travelers as we venture out across the solar system. For example, no human has yet to stand on the Moon and witness a solar eclipse. Or how about a ring plane passage through Saturn’s rings, thus far only witnessed via the robotic eyes of Cassini? Of course, for the best views of Saturn’s rings, we recommend a vacation stay on Iapetus, the only major Saturnian moon whose orbit is inclined to the ring plane. And stick around ‘til November 10th, 2084, and you can witness a transit of Earth, the Moon and Phobos as seen from the slopes of Elysium Mons on Mars:

Hopefully, they’ll have perfected that whole Futurama “head-in-a-jar” thing by then…

-Looking for eclipses in science fiction? Check out the author’s tales Exeligmos and Shadowfall.