NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Catches a Lunar Transit

The Moon's shadow crosses, from left to right, a satellite view of the Sun, colored in gold.

Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng

On Oct. 16, 2020, the Moon photobombed NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory’s view of the Sun. This apparent crossing in space, called a lunar transit, lasted about 50 minutes, between 3:05 p.m. and 3:53 p.m. ET. At the peak, the Moon covered about 44% of the Sun. During this time, the Moon also happened to cover two of the spacecraft’s fine-guidance sensors — causing its view of the Sun to jitter slightly. The spacecraft, called SDO for short, recovered its steady view soon after the transit ended.

Currently, the Sun’s lower half displays two active regions — areas of intense magnetic fields on the Sun, often associated with solar activity and eruptions. Now that Solar Cycle 25 is underway, scientists expect more active regions to appear in the coming months.SDO captured these images in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. This kind of light is invisible to human eyes, and colorized here in gold.

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