Wednesday, December 14, 2011
What does the Earth look like during a solar eclipse?
Posted by Jay at 12:18 PM
A few days ago on December 10, 2011, a total lunar eclipse took place that was fully visible to people in most of Asia and Oceana, and partially visible to those in Europe and North America. Eclipses, both solar and lunar, are spectacular events that still evoke wonder in the eyes of people on Earth, but wouldn't it be equally fascinating to see what the Earth looks like during an eclipse like this?
An eclipse happens when the view of one astronomical object is obscured, either because another body passes between it and the viewer, or it passes into the shadow of another body. In a lunar eclipse, the Moon passes directly behind the Earth, which means it is unable to reflect the Sun's rays to the Earth. In a solar eclipse, the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, obscuring the view.
The Sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, but it is also 400 times farther away from Earth. This amazing coincidence makes it possible for the disc of the Soon to totally obscure the disk of the Sun during a solar eclipse. While the event looks stunning on Earth, what does it look like in Space?
These amazing images show that the view from space is equally as spectacular. In the first photograph taken of the August 11, 1999 solar eclipse, the moon casts its shadow somewhere over Europe. In the second one as seen from the International Space Station, parts of Turkey and Cyprus are obscured during the late morning of March 29, 2006.
The last two show different perspectives of the July 23, 2009 solar eclipse. The moon blocked out the whole of Taiwan for six minutes, making it the longest solar eclipse of the century.
If you want to see more images of what the Earth looks like during a solar eclipse, check out the Big Picture Blog. Be sure to visit NASA's eclipse website for details on past and future events. The next annular eclipse (one where the Moon appears slightly smaller than the Sun) will happen on May 20, 2012, and the next total solar eclipse will fall on November 13, 2012.