A Mardi Gras Moon Crossing

SDO AIA image of the Sun and Moon at 14:11 UT on Feb. 21, 2012


The Sun seems to be glowing in traditional Mardi Gras colors in this image, made from three AIA channels taken today at approximately 14:11 UT (about 9:11 a.m. EST) as the Moon passed between it and the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. Looks like it’s that time of year again!

During portions of the year, the Moon transits the Sun on a regular basis from the perspective of NASA’s SDO spacecraft, which lies within the Moon’s orbit. When this happens we are treated to an improvised eclipse… and it gives SDO engineers a way to fine-tune the observatory’s calibration as well.

Here are more AIA views of the same event captured in different wavelengths:

Lunar transit on 2-21-12; AIA 304
Lunar transit on 2-21-12; AIA 193
Lunar transit on 2-21-12; AIA 4500

…and here’s an interesting image taken in HMI Dopplergram:

HMI Dopplergram image of transit

While the AIA (Atmospheric Imaging Assembly) images the Sun in light sensitive to different layers of its atmosphere, the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) studies oscillations in the Sun’s magnetic field at the surface layer.

Watch a video of the path of this lunar transit, posted by the SDO team here.

And if you happen to be reading this as of the time of this writing (appx. 10:06 a.m. EST) you can keep up with the latest images coming in on the SDO site at http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

It’s Mardi Gras and the Moon doesn’t want to miss out on any of the fun!

Images courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams. Hat-tip to Mr. Stu Atkinson who called the AIA alert on Twitter.