On Wednesday (June 29), the Moon was captured by a Sun spacecraft as it passed in front of the Sun.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the solar eclipse in action from its unique vantage point in space, the only place where the eclipse was visible.
“At the peak of the eclipse, the Moon covered 67% of the Sun, and the Lunar Mountains were backlighted by solar fire,” wrote SpaceWeather.com (opens in new tab) Wednesday morning EDT (NASA had yet to comment about the incident.)
related: Sun Outbreak: Worst Solar Storm in History
SDO typically views the Sun as the source of space weather, or radiation in space that affects Earth. Aspects of its study include the Sun’s magnetic field, sunspots and other aspects that influence activity during the regular 11-year solar cycle.
“SDO studies how solar activity creates and drives space weather. The spacecraft’s measurements of the Sun’s interior, atmosphere, magnetic field and energy output all serve to help us understand that star with whom we live,” wrote NASA (opens in new tab) of mission.
SDO launched in February 2010 and is part of a network of solar spacecraft from NASA and its partner agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Sun has been very recent and unusually active in its cycle, which should peak around 2025.
Scientists are interested in following up on the origin story of solar flames and the coronal mass ejections of charged particles that could form colorful auroras in Earth’s atmosphere if CMEs are aimed at our planet. Usually CMEs are harmless, but fast explosions can disrupt satellites, power lines and other infrastructure, which is why scientists are so eager for good predictions.
In particular, NASA has sent a close-up sungazing mission called the Parker Solar Probe to probe the Sun’s corona, or extremely hot outer region, as other satellites look from afar to obtain context.