A Solar Eclipse, From Heaven and Earth

Contributed by
Nov 4, 2013
<?xml encoding="utf-8" ?>

On Sunday morning, observers on Earth saw the Moon slip between them and the Sun, causing a solar eclipse.

Well, some observers on Earth. The timing was such that folks on the U.S. East Coast saw the eclipse already in progress when the Sun (and Moon) rose—it was only a partial eclipse for them anyway. People farther east, like in Europe and Africa, saw a total eclipse during midday or late afternoon. From space, “day” and “night” are a matter of some subjectivity, but the eclipse was visible from there, too.

And from all these locations shutters were snapping away, creating lovely images and video of the event. First up, I’d like to show you a partially eclipsed sunrise, care of Steve Ellington, who viewed it from the U.S. East Coast:

That’s spectacular. I’ve seen quite a few partial eclipses but never like that!

And I love this: The eclipse was even seen from space. The Russian weather satellite Elektro-L took a series of images that journalist Vitaliy Egorov turned into a cool animation.

This may need a bit of explaining. Elektro-L looks down over Russia (actually, it’s centered south of India, over the equator, but it sees all of Russia from there), so Africa is near the Earth’s western edge. The satellite is in a 24-hour orbit, so it seems as if it’s hovering over one spot on the Earth; conversely, from the satellite’s point of view, the Earth seems fixed beneath it. However, as the Earth rotates, the shadow line (called the terminator) between day and night sweeps across the Earth’s face, moving east to west.

Over Africa, the eclipse happened near sunset. You can see the crescent Earth, with the terminator moving to the left (west). Suddenly, the Moon’s shadow appears as an oval on the extreme left, moving to the right (due to the Moon’s motion around the Earth as well as the Earth’s rotation). It’s only there for a moment in the video, but it’s still fascinating: The complex motions of the Earth, Moon, and satellite all combine into a lovely dance played out over hours and across continents … and space.

More pictures of this eclipse have been posted on UniverseToday.com.

And I have to add: Every time there’s an eclipse, people start posting fake pictures on social media. It’s as predictable as, well, eclipses. This one made the rounds on Sunday:

The claim is it was the eclipse seen from the International Space Station, and it was reposted by many, many people. I’m not surprised, it does look real, but it is in fact a piece of art! It was created in 2009 by Ryuunosuke Takeshige, aka A4size-ska, and is posted on Deviantart. If you see someone posting it on Twitter or somewhere else claiming it’s real, point them to this article I wrote in 2012 showing it’s not. If you want to know what an eclipse looks like from the ISS, then try this instead. It’s real.

The next solar eclipse won’t be visible until April 29, 2014, and will only be seen from Australia and parts of Indonesia. After that, there’s another one on Oct. 23, 2014, that’s visible from Canada and the U.S., but it’s only a partial one. Still, they’re fun to watch. I’ll have more info about those eclipses closer to the time. But just to be sure, you should probably order your eclipse glasses now!