You've never seen a solar eclipse quite like this

This morning, at 9:47 am ET, the Moon passed in front of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, temporarily blocking the satellite's view of the Sun. Fortunately for all of us, the Observatory's cameras were rolling — and what it captured is an incredible sight to behold.

NASA's SDO zips around our planet at a distance of no less than 1,600 miles, and the video below was shot from onboard the SDO; it's not every day you see a solar eclipse from Earth's orbit, and in that respect this clip is pretty damn cool.

But it's hard not to notice something else interesting about this video, namely the shifts in color and variations in the Sun's surface features as the Moon makes its 101-minute trip across the SDO's field of vision. Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait helps explain what's going on with this multi-colored view of the Sun:

The false color images show the event at a variety of different "colors" in the ultraviolet, where different temperatures and behaviors of the Sun are apparent. One shows the magnetic activity creating loops and towers of plasma arching from the Sun's surface, another the roiling cells of hot plasma rising from beneath the surface which then cool and sink, and another the extremely hot plasma of the Sun's corona.


Incredibly, most of these features would have been all but invisible to you had you witnessed the eclipse with your own eyes from onboard the SDO; not because you'd have your retinas cooked out of your skull, or because you'd croak in the vacuum of space (though both of those things would certainly happen), but because these "layers of temperature" — as NASA describes them — are invisible to the naked eye.

Vacuumed body and charred retinas notwithstanding, this visible light image gives you a better idea (albeit in grayscale) of what you might expect to see from onboard the SDO. [click here for hi res]


[NASA SDO via Bad Astronomy]
Video by NASA SDO

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