On August 21st, the United States will have an epic front row seat to a total solar eclipse — one that can be seen from the coasts of South Carolina to Oregon. Because of the country’s unique vantage point, the event has been appropriately named the Great American Eclipse, and people have already solidified their travel plans so that they can get the best view of the astronomical phenomenon. Of course, we still have some time to go before the event takes place, so if you need an eclipse fix in the meantime, NASA has something just for you: a partial eclipse seen from space.
NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory — tasked with staring at the Sun every day — spotted the Moon as it crossed in front of our parent star on May 25th. The observatory, known as SDO, is currently located more than 22,000 miles above Earth in an orbit that keeps the satellite over New Mexico at all times. Unlike the eclipse we’ll see in August, the eclipse that SDO saw was only a partial one, so only about 89 percent of the Sun was fully covered at one time. But since the observatory’s actual job is taking pictures of the Sun, NASA was able to string together the Moon’s transit into a fun GIF.
SDO will also get a view of the eclipse in August, after the total eclipse has left the US. However, the Moon will barely cover up the Sun from SDO’s point of view, meaning it will see even less coverage than it did yesterday. So no need to be jealous: SDO may have seen an eclipse that we didn’t, but we’ll have an even better view in a few months.