NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Spots a Lunar Transit

NASA's SDO Views a Lunar Transit

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a new image of a lunar transit when the Moon crossed the spacecraft’s view of the Sun.

On October 19, 2017, the Moon photobombed NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, when it crossed the spacecraft’s view of the Sun, treating us to these shadowy images. The lunar transit lasted about 45 minutes, between 3:41 and 4:25 p.m. EDT, with the Moon covering about 26 percent of the Sun at the peak of its journey. The Moon’s shadow obstructs SDO’s otherwise constant view of the Sun, and the shadow’s edge is sharp and distinct, since the Moon has no atmosphere which would distort sunlight.

SDO captured these images in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that shows solar material heated to more than 10 million degrees Fahrenheit. This kind of light is invisible to human eyes, but colorized here in green.

SDO: The Solar Dynamics Observatory is the first mission to be launched for NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) Program, a program designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. SDO is designed to help us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously.

SDO’s goal is to understand, driving towards a predictive capability, the solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity’s technological systems by determining

  • How the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured
  • How this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance.
  • SDO launched on February 11, 2010, 10:23 am EST on an Atlas V from SLC 41 from Cape Canaveral.

Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng

Text: Lina Tran, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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