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What a total solar eclipse looks like from space

  • NOAA / JAPAN METEOROLOGICAL AGENCY

    In March 2016, a total solar eclipse passed over Indonesia and through the Pacific Ocean. A Japanese weather satellite known as Himawari-8 captured it all.

When the total solar eclipse traces a path on Aug. 21 from Oregon to South Carolina, millions will turn their gaze upward as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, darkening the sky in the middle of the day. But what if they could see the eclipse from above instead?

In March 2016, a total solar eclipse passed over Indonesia and through the Pacific Ocean. A Japanese weather satellite known as Himawari-8 captured it all. A video produced by NASA from the footage shows what a total solar eclipse looks like from space.

The satellite, which remains stationary over a single spot 22,000 miles above the Earth, captured the light of a full day. In the video, the sun rises on the right and sets on the left, like a hand moving across a face. The sun gets chased by sunglint. A ghostlike aura is the spot where the sun reflects off the water at the same angle the satellite is facing.

A dark spot shown darting across the planet from left to right is the moon’s shadow.

If you were to watch the so-called Great American Eclipse from a satellite in a stationary orbit, like the one over the Pacific, that is pretty much what you’d see as the eclipse traced its path across the United States.

Watching from a computer screen is great, and NASA will stream live footage from a number of sites on its website. But it may not add up to what people say they experience witnessing a total eclipse in real life. Try to see it in person if you can; the next total eclipse won’t fall over the United States until April 8, 2024.

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