NASA’s SDO Catches (Another) Lunar Transit

On Oct. 30, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced a partial solar eclipse in space when it caught the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted one hour, between 2:56 p.m. and 3:56 p.m. MDT, with the moon covering about 59 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the face of the sun. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng

On Oct. 30, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced a partial solar eclipse in space when it caught the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted one hour, between 2:56 p.m. and 3:56 p.m. MDT, with the moon covering about 59 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the face of the sun. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng

October 31, 2016 – On October 30, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced a partial solar eclipse in space when it caught the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted one hour, between 1:56 p.m. and 2:56 p.m. MDT, with the moon covering about 59 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the face of the sun. The moon’s shadow obstructs SDO’s otherwise constant view of the sun, and the shadow’s edge is sharp and distinct, because the moon has no atmosphere to distort sunlight.

SDO provides ultra high-definition imagery of the Sun in 13 different wavelengths. Each wavelength was chosen to highlight a particular part of the sun’s atmosphere, from the solar surface to the upper reaches of the sun’s corona. SDO captured these images in extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light invisible to human eyes. The imagery here is colorized in red.

From SDO’s point of view, the sun appears to be shaking slightly. The shaking is the result of slight adjustments in SDO’s guidance system, which normally relies on viewing the entire sun to center the images between exposures.

SDO includes an instrument built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and another built by Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California. Goddard built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program.