Standing in the Shadow: Amazing Images of Today’s Total Solar Eclipse

The Moon’s shadow kissed the Earth earlier today, providing a fine show from southeast Asia, to the southern shores of Alaska. We wrote about the only total solar eclipse for 2016 yesterday. This is it, the last total solar eclipse prior to the return of totality for the contiguous United States on August 21st, 2017.

Cloud cover over the region was a toss up, with clear skies for some, and cloudy skies for others. Those towards the western end of the track where the eclipsed rising Sun sat low on the horizon seemed to have fared worst.

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Clouds thwarted a Malaysian team that had journeyed to Indonesia to view the eclipse (including Sharin Ahmad @shahgazer), though they were at the ready. Image credit and copyright: Sharin Ahmad.

Update: Sometimes, the camera sees what the eye misses. The Malaysian team did indeed manage to nab a fine display of Bailey’s Beads in the moments leading up to totality through a thin gap in the clouds:

Sunlight, interupted. A welcome photobomb courtesy of the Earth's Moon. Image credit and copyright: Shahrin Ahmad. (@shahgazer)
Sunlight, interupted. A welcome photobomb courtesy of the Earth’s Moon. Image credit and copyright: Shahrin Ahmad. (@shahgazer)

Skies dawned clear to the east over the Indonesian islands on the morning of the eclipse, and the joint NASA/Exploratorium webcast from the remote atoll of Woleai in Micronesia was a success.

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A ‘helipad solar observatory’ readied for the eclipse. Image credit and copyright: Patrick Poitevin.

Observing from a helipad Balikpanpan, Indonesia, veteran eclipse chaser Patrick Poitevin said: “What an eclipse! Vertically clear sky throughout the entire eclipse from our ‘private’ helipad in Balikpapan. Only slight haze now and then. Asymmetric corona, with bright and prominent snow white streamer. Venus, Mercury easily visible long before, and shadow bands post totality. Fabulous! All so pretty!!! Marked the second Saros 130 for Jo and the 3rd for me.”

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Many viewers noted a fine solar prominence on the solar limb seen during totality. Patrick Poitevin caught the prominence using a hydrogen-alpha solar telescope just moments before the onset of totality. Image credit: Patrick Poitevin.

Indeed, catching a ‘triple saros’ known as an exeligmos is a noteworthy lifetime accomplishment.

09 March 2016 - Total Solar Eclipse from Palu, Indonesia. Image credit and copyright: Justin Ng.
09 March 2016 – Total Solar Eclipse from Palu, Indonesia. Image credit and copyright: Justin Ng.

Many witnessed the eclipse via Slooh’s live webcast from the path of totality, which is now archived in its entirety on YouTube.

Totality, as witnessed by the Slooh team in Indonesia. Image credit: www.slooh.com
Totality, as witnessed by the Slooh team in Indonesia. Image credit: www.slooh.com

As of writing this, no views from space have surfaced, though we suspect this will change as the day goes on. Word is that the Alaskan Airlines flight that modified their flight plan to catch the eclipse was successful as well. Check back, as we’ll be dropping in more images as they trickle in from the field throughout the day.

The partial phases of today's eclipse as seen from Lava Lava, Hawaii. image credit and copyright: Rob Sparks (@halfastro)
The partial phases of today’s eclipse as seen from Lava Lava, Hawaii. Image credit and copyright: Rob Sparks (@halfastro)

Update: Scratch that… Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite did indeed nab views of the umbra of the Moon as it raced across the Pacific:

An animation of today's total solar eclipse as seen from space. Image credit: The Meteorological Satellite Center of JAMA.
An animation of today’s total solar eclipse as seen from space. Image credit: The Meteorological Satellite Center of JAMA.

Though the eclipse was almost entirely over water after the umbra departed SE Asia, regions around the path were treated to a fine partial eclipse, including residents of Hawaii:

August 21st 2017 is now the very next total solar eclipse in the queue!

Update: and the amazing images just keep on coming… here’s an amazing image and time lapse video courtesy of astrophotographer Justin Ng:

09 March 2016 - Total Solar Eclipse from Palu, Indonesia. Image credit and copyright: Justin Ng Photography.
09 March 2016 – Total Solar Eclipse from Palu, Indonesia. Image credit and copyright: Justin Ng Photography.

And timelapse:

2016 Total Solar Eclipse – Palu Indonesia from Justin Ng Photo on Vimeo.

Wow. just wow!

Chasing the Shadow: Our Guide to the March 9th Total Solar Eclipse

Ready for the ultimate in astronomical events? On the morning of Wednesday, March 9th, the Moon eclipses the Sun for viewers across southeast Asia.

Many intrepid umbraphiles are already in position for the spectacle. The event is the only total solar eclipse of 2016, and the penultimate total solar eclipse prior the ‘Big One’ crossing the continental United States on August 21st, 2017.

Image credit: Great American Eclipse/Michael Zeiler
The path of tomorrow’s eclipse. Image credit: Great American Eclipse/Michael Zeiler

Tales of the Saros

This particular eclipse is member 52 of 73 eclipses in saros cycle 130, which runs from 1096 AD to 2394. If you saw the total solar eclipse which crossed South America on February 26th, 1998, then you caught the last solar eclipse from the same cycle.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair
An animation of the event. Image credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair

Weather prospects are dicey along the eclipse track, as March is typically the middle of monsoon season for southeast Asia. Most eclipse chasers have headed to the islands of Indonesia or cruises based nearby to witness the event. The point of greatest eclipse lies off of the southeastern coast of the Philippine Islands in the South China Sea, with a duration of 4 minutes and 10 seconds. Most observers, however, will experience a substantially shorter period of totality. For example, totality lasts only 2 minutes and 35 seconds over island of Ternate, where many eclipse chasers have gathered. The Sun will be 48 degrees above the horizon from the island during totality.

A great place to check cloud cover and weather prospects along the eclipse track is the Eclipsophile website.

Image credit; SkippySky
A dicey sky: prospects for cloud cover over Australia. Image credit; SkippySky

The umbra of the Earth’s Moon will sweep across Sumatra at sunrise and across the island of Borneo, to landfall one last time for Indonesia over the island of North Maluku before sweeping across the central Pacific. This eclipse is unusual in that it makes landfall over a very few countries: the island nation of Indonesia, and just a few scattered atolls in Palau and Micronesia.

Partial phases of the eclipse are also visible from India at sunrise, across northeast Asia along the northernmost track, to central Australia in the south, and finally, to southern Alaskan coast at sunset. Honolulu Hawaii sees a 65% partial solar eclipse in the late afternoon on March 8th.

Expect great views, both from Earth and from space. We typically get images from solar observing spacecraft, to include the joint NASA/JAXA Hinode mission, and the European Space Agency’s PROBA-2 spacecraft. Both are in low-Earth orbit, and see a given eclipse as a swift, fleeting event. Other solar observatories—such as the Solar Heliospheric Observatory and the Solar Dynamics Observatory—occupy a different vantage point in space, and miss the eclipse.

Image credit: Starry Night Education Software
The orientation of the Sun and planets at totality (click to enlarge). Image credit: Starry Night Education Software

As of this writing, we know of several folks that have made the journey to stand in the path of totality, to include Sharin Ahmad (@Shagazer), Michael Zeiler (@GreatAmericanEclipse) and Justin Ng.

Good luck and clear skies to all observers out there, awaiting darkness in the path of totality.

Live in the wrong hemisphere? There are several live webcasts planned from the eclipse zone:

NASA and the National Science Foundation are working with a team from San Francisco’s Exploratorium to bring a live webcast of the eclipse from the remote atoll island of Woleai, Micronesia. The feed starts at 7:00 EST/0:00 Universal Time (UT) and runs for just over three hours. You can follow the exploits of the team leading up to show time here.

The venerable Slooh will also feature a webcast of the eclipse with astronomer Paul Cox from Indonesia running for three hours starting at 6:00 PM EST/23:00 UT.

A view of the partial phases of the eclipse from the Hong Kong science center also starts at 5:30 PM EST/22:30 UT:

Don’t forget: though the eclipse occurs on the morning of March 9th local time in southeast Asia, the path crosses the International Dateline, and the webcasts kick off on the evening of Tuesday March 8th for North America.

And hey, Alaska Airlines flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu will divert from its flight plan slightly… just to briefly intercept the Moon’s shadow (its already a fully booked flight!)

From there, 2016 features only two faint penumbral lunar eclipses on March 23rd and September 16th, and an annular solar eclipse crossing central Africa on September 1st.

We’ll be doing a post-eclipse round up, with tales from totality and the pics to prove it… stay tuned!

Got eclipse pictures to share? Send ’em to Universe Today… we just might feature them in our round up!

Don’t miss our eclipse-fueled science fiction tales: Exeligmos and Shadowfall.