It is not hard to find photos and videos of this year’s first and only total solar eclipse taken from the ground. But NASA planned to change the perspective and released a composite video with the celestial event as seen from deep space.
It is an intriguing attempt to capture and share with humanity a view of a solar eclipse as seen from space. NASA’s short clip comprises 13 static images taken Wednesday by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC).
EPIC is a component of the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite, in short DSCOVR, a space weather satellite located at Lagrange point 1 (LG1) between our planet and the sun. The observatory’s position allows it to have a permanent view of the sunlit side of the planet from a 1.6 million km distance.
In the clip, you can see how the Moon’s shadow flits across the Indian Ocean through Oceania and taps Indonesia and Australia in the process. The perspective is breathtaking, but the most fascinating fact is that the shadow moves in the same direction as the Earth moves. Furthermore, you can get an idea from the short clip how fast the moon’s shadow can travel during a solar eclipse.
Researchers explained that the shadow’s speed varies a lot depending on some parameters. Based on an observer’s position on the planet and moment of the day, the shadow can travel at between 1,100 mph and 5,000 mph.
Jay Pasachoff, Ph.D., of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, explained that the moon’s shadow accelerates near the poles since the planet’s rotation tends to slow down while the shadow in projected against the planet’s curvature.
This means that the shadow won’t be visible for too long no matter where you are located on Earth. Instead, if you travel on a jet plane, you could have a longer view of the solar eclipse.
For instance, in 1973, a group of scientists ‘chased’ a total solar eclipse aboard of a supersonic plane. While ground observers were able to witness the celestial event for a few brief moments, scientists gazed at the peak of the eclipse for more than 70 minutes.
The peak occurs when the moon’s disc completely covers the sun’s. In theory, the maximum peak of a total solar eclipse when observed from ground level is 7:30 minutes.
The longest solar eclipse in the last century happened on July 22, 2009, with a peak of 6 minutes and 39 seconds. The event, which was visible from Asia, will be surpassed by an eclipse in 2132, which is expected to last 6 minutes and 55 seconds.
Image Source: Wikimedia