The clockwork motion of the heavens has brought us another treat: The dark silhouetted Moon sliding across the fiery disk of the Sun, as seen from NASAâs Solar Dynamics Observatory just hours ago:
SDO orbits the Earth, staring at the Sun 24/7. Every now and again the geometry lines up such that the Moon appears to move in front of the Sun, creating what astronomers call a transit (on Earth weâd call these solar eclipses). They usually last for a half hour or so, but this one lasted 2.5 hours! The video shows the Sun using SDOâs far-ultraviolet filter (30.4 nanometers, for those geeks keeping tabs), and was taken on Jan. 30, 2014, from 13:15 to 16:15 UTC (08:15 to 11:15 Eastern U.S. time). Note that the Moonâs path is an arc; thatâs due to the combined orbital motions of the Moon and SDO around the Earth.
And we get a bonus: At 16:11 UTC, a sunspot erupted in a moderately strong M6.6 flare! This blasted material off the surface of the Sun, creating a lovely (if terrifying) prominence of ionized gas flowing along the magnetic field lines of the star.