Incredibly Rare Double Eclipse Of The Sun By Earth And The Moon Snapped By Spacecraft

Double solar transit

photo credit: The shadow of the Moon is on the left, and Earth at the top. NASA/SDO.

Sometimes when dealing with space, it’s easy to get a bit carried away. So forgive us when we say this is one of the coolest things we have ever seen. Ever.

The image above is the amazing moment that NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured both Earth and the Moon obscuring its view of the Sun – the first double eclipse it has ever seen.

The spacecraft orbits 35,789 kilometers (22,238 miles) above Earth in a geosynchronous orbit, which means it is always in a similar position above our planet. In its orbit, SDO has unobstructed views of the Sun save for twice a year, when the spacecraft passes behind Earth and our planet blocks its view for anything from several minutes to over an hour each day for a few weeks.

SDO sees numerous transits of Earth and the Moon across the Sun every year, but on 13 September 2015 the spacecraft witnessed a simultaneous transit of the Sun by both Earth and the Moon for the first time. Footage reveals how the entirety of Earth blocked its view, but as our planet moved out of the way, part of the Sun was also obscured by the Moon, as all four objects were in line. The result is an extremely rare double transit.

Watch a video of the event above. NASA Goddard.

In the image, the silhouette of the Moon (on the left) appears crisp and clear, while Earth’s silhouette (at the top) appears fuzzy. This is due to our planet’s atmosphere, which blocks light at different amounts at different altitudes. The Moon, comparatively, has only a minuscule atmosphere, known as an exosphere.

It’s incredible to think that, in the vastness of space, these four objects could all line up at once. Now excuse us while we go gape in awe at the picture for a while longer.

This article was originally published by Jonathan O’Callaghan in IFL Science.

You Can Now Build Your Very Own Powerful Telescope At Home

Original article from Science Magazine by Daniel Clery.

A team from the London-based Open Space Agency (OSA) has produced the Ultrascope, a downloadable telescope design that can be generated by a 3D printer, be controlled by simple robotics, and captures images using the camera on a smartphone. OSA’s James Parr says the group wanted to show that it was possible to create an open source design that people could build cheaply at home and use to do scientifically valuable observations. The phones on the Ultrascope automatically upload images to the cloud and Parr hopes users will build up a library of shared images online. (An annotated image from beta testing is shown below.) The OSA team will launch a model with a 9-centimeter mirror at the San Diego Maker Faire in California in October. But a later, 30-centimeter model should be capable of astronomical tasks such as characterizing potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.  “We want to create a community and do projects that are useful,” Parr says.

Open Space Agency

Sample image from the Ultrascope with annotations.