Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Solar Eclipse of July 22, 2009

A total solar eclipse of the Sun occurred earlier this week on Wednesday July 22. The path of totality as illustrated by the following animation (image credit NASA/A T Sinclair), touched the Earth in India, crossed through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the path crossed Japan's Ryukyu Islands and curved southeast through the Pacific Ocean where the maximum duration of totality reached 6 min 39 sec.

The Hinode satellite captured images of the eclipse from space. Hinode is a joint science mission (also known as Solar-B) mounted by JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the American NASA. The following image (photo credit NASA/JAXA) shows the moon's shadow in front of a heavily filtered view of the Sun.

Another Japanese Earth-monitoring satellite MTSAT captured what I believe has to be one of the most seriously cool space images ever -- the view of the moon's shadow on the earth from geostationary orbit 35,790 km (22,240 mi) high. The image (photo credit MTSAT/GMS via Wired Science blog) shows the shadow covering the island of Taiwan. Note that Australia is pretty clear of cloud cover -- just as one would expect from the reports of drought conditions there.

As eclipses go, this one was pretty long at nearly 7 minutes of totality. The next one having this comparable level of totality won't occur until 2132. Those of us still around will be just a bit decrepit by then :-)

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