The observatory captured images of both the Earth and moon passing directly in front of the sun.

Cailey Rizzo
September 07, 2016

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured footage of a rare double eclipse last week.

While in orbit on September 1, the observatory captured images of both the Earth and moon passing directly in front of the sun.

The observatory was looking directly at the sun when Earth passed briefly in front of it, blocking the view. While Earth was passing, the moon also crossed the face of the sun behind Earth.

When NASA captured footage of its first double eclipse last year, it described the event as a “double photobomb.”

It may be a bit hard to distinguish which body is which in the video. The first, fuzzier circle is the sun and the smaller, crisper circle is the moon. Because the moon has no atmosphere, its edge appears completely crisp on camera.

Twice a year, the observatory experiences “eclipse seasons” because of its geosynchronous orbit, according to NASA. Geosynchronous orbit means that an object travels at the same speed of earth’s rotation. For people looking out at the satellite from Earth, it will appear to stay in one place in the sky. During these eclipse seasons, the earth blocks the observatory's view of the sun once a day for about three weeks. The blockage can last up to 72 minutes in the peak of eclipse season.

The observatory is constantly looking at the sun. It was sent to space to record information about the sun as part of NASA’s “Living with a Star” program. The satellite helps scientists study flares from the sun and how they affect life on Earth.

During the double eclipse, a simultaneous eclipse was visible on the ground in southern Africa. A simultaneous eclipse is similar to a total solar eclipse, only the moon is a bit further from Earth than usual. The eclipse is also known as the “ring of fire.”

Cailey Rizzo writes about travel, art and culture and is the founding editor of The Local Dive. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @misscaileyanne.

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