Category: totalsolareclipse

A Year on the Sun Through Our Satellite’s Eyes

Did you know we’re watching the Sun 24/7 from space?

We use a whole
fleet of satellites
to monitor the Sun and its influences on the solar
system. One of those is the Solar Dynamics
Observatory
. It’s been in space for eight years, keeping an eye on the Sun
almost every moment of every day. Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, this satellite
(also known as SDO) was originally designed for a two-year mission, but it’s
still collecting data to this day — and one of our best ways to keep an eye on
our star.

To celebrate another year of SDO, we’re sharing some of our
favorite solar views that the spacecraft sent back to Earth in 2017.

 March: A long spotless
stretch

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For 15 days starting on March 7, SDO
saw the yolk-like spotless Sun in visible light
.

The Sun goes through a natural 11-year cycle of activity
marked by two extremes: solar maximum and solar minimum. Sunspots are dark
regions of complex magnetic activity on the Sun’s surface, and the number of
sunspots at any given time is used as an index of solar activity.

  • Solar maximum = intense solar activity and more
    sunspots
  • Solar minimum = less solar activity and fewer
    sunspots

This March 2017 period was the longest stretch of spotlessness since the last solar minimum in April 2010 – a sure sign that the solar cycle is marching on toward the next minimum, which scientists expect in 2019-2020. For comparison, the images on the left are from Feb. 2014 – during the last solar maximum –  and show a much spottier Sun.

June: Energized active
regions

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 A pair of relatively small but frenetic
active regions
– areas of intense and complex magnetic fields – rotated
into SDO’s view May 31 – June 2, while spouting off numerous small flares and
sweeping loops of plasma. The dynamic regions were easily the most remarkable
areas on the Sun during this 42-hour period.

July: Two weeks in the
life of a sunspot

On July 5, SDO watched an active region rotate into view on
the Sun. The satellite continued
to track the region
as it grew and eventually rotated across the Sun and
out of view on July 17.  

With their complex magnetic fields, sunspots are often the
source of interesting solar activity: During its 13-day trip across the face of
the Sun, the active region — dubbed AR12665 — put on a show for our Sun-watching
satellites, producing several solar flares, a coronal mass ejection and a solar
energetic particle event. 

August: An eclipse in
space

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While millions of people in North America experienced a
total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, SDO
saw a partial eclipse from space
. SDO actually sees several
lunar transits
a year from its perspective – but an eclipse on the ground doesn’t necessarily
mean that SDO will see anything out of the ordinary. Even on Aug. 21, SDO saw
only 14 percent of the Sun blocked by the Moon, while most US residents saw 60
percent blockage or more.

September: A spate of
solar activity

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In September 2017, SDO saw a
spate of solar activity
, with the Sun emitting 31 notable flares and
releasing several powerful coronal mass ejections between Sept. 6-10. Solar
flares are powerful bursts of radiation, while coronal mass ejections are
massive clouds of solar material and magnetic fields that erupt from the Sun at
incredible speeds.

One of the flares imaged by SDO on Sept. 6 was classified as
X9.3 – clocking in at the most powerful flare of the current solar cycle. The
current cycle began in December 2008 and is now decreasing in intensity,
heading toward solar minimum. During solar minimum, such eruptions on the Sun
are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be
intense.

September: A trio of
tempests

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Three
distinct solar active regions
with towering arches rotated into SDO’s view
over a three-day period from Sept. 24-26. Charged particles spinning along the
ever-changing magnetic field lines above the active regions trace out the
magnetic field in extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light that is typically
invisible to our eyes, but is colorized here in gold. To give some sense of
scale, the largest arches are many times the size of Earth.

December: A curling
prominence

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SDO saw a small prominence arch up
and send streams of solar material curling back into the Sun over a 30-hour
period on Dec. 13-14. Prominences are relatively cool strands of solar material
tethered above the Sun’s surface by magnetic fields.

 December: Solar
question mark

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An elongated coronal hole — the darker area near the center
of the Sun’s disk — looked
something like a question mark
when seen in extreme ultraviolet light by SDO
on Dec. 21-22. Coronal holes are magnetically open areas on the Sun that
allow high-speed solar wind to gush out into space. They appear as dark areas
when seen in certain wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light.

For all the latest on the Solar Dynamics Observatory, visit nasa.gov/sdo.
Keep up with the latest on the Sun on Twitter @NASASun or at facebook.com/NASASunScience.


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Celebrate Today’s Solar Eclipse With NASA

Today, Aug. 21, the Moon’s shadow is sweeping across North America. People across the continent have the chance to see a partial solar eclipse if skies are clear.

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For those within the narrow path of totality, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, that partial eclipse will become total for a few brief moments. 

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Make sure you’re using proper solar filters (not sunglasses) or an indirect viewing method if you plan to watch the eclipse in person.

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Wherever you are, you can also watch today’s eclipse online with us at nasa.gov/eclipselive. Starting at noon ET, our show will feature views from our research aircraft, high-altitude balloons, satellites and specially-modified telescopes, as well as live reports from cities across the country and the International Space Station.

Learn all about today’s eclipse at eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Aug. 21 Eclipse

On Aug. 21, all of North America will experience a solar eclipse.

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If skies are clear, eclipse-watchers will be able to see a partial solar eclipse over several hours, and some people – within the narrow path of totality – will see a total solar eclipse for a few moments.

How to Watch

It’s never safe to look at the Sun, and an eclipse is no exception. During a partial eclipse (or on any regular day) you must use special solar filters or an indirect viewing method to watch the Sun.

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If you have solar viewing glasses, check to make sure they’re safe and undamaged before using them to look at the Sun. Make sure you put them on before looking up at the Sun, and look away before removing them. Eclipse glasses can be used over your regular eyeglasses, but they should never be used when looking through telescopes, binoculars, camera viewfinders, or any other optical device.

If you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can still watch the eclipse indirectly! You can make a pinhole projector out of a box, or use any other object with tiny holes – like a piece of cardstock with a hole, or your outstretched, interlaced fingers – to project an image of the partially eclipsed Sun onto the ground.

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Of course, if it’s cloudy (or you’d just rather stay inside), you can watch the whole thing online with us at nasa.gov/eclipselive. Tune in starting at noon ET.

If you’re in the path of totality, there will be a few brief moments when it is safe to look directly at the eclipse. Only once the Moon has completely covered the Sun and there is no light shining through is it safe to look at the eclipse. Make sure you put your eclipse glasses back on or return to indirect viewing before the first flash of sunlight appears around the Moon’s edge.

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Why do eclipses happen?

A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly between the Sun and Earth, casting its shadow down on Earth’s surface. The path of totality – where the Moon completely covers the Sun – is traced out by the Moon’s inner shadow, the umbra. People within the Moon’s outer shadow, the penumbra, can see a partial eclipse.

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The Moon’s orbit around Earth is tilted by about five degrees, meaning that its shadow usually doesn’t fall on Earth. Only when the Moon lines up exactly between the Sun and Earth do we see an eclipse.

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Though the Sun is about 400 times wider than the Moon, it is also about 400 times farther away, making their apparent sizes match up almost exactly. This is what allows the Moon to block out the Sun’s bright face, while revealing the comparatively faint, pearly-white corona.

The Science of Eclipses

Eclipses are a beautiful sight to see, and they’re also helpful for our scientists, so we’re funding eleven ground-based science investigations to learn more about the Sun and Earth.

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Total solar eclipses reveal the innermost regions of the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona. Though it’s thought to house the processes that kick-start much of the space weather that can influence Earth, as well as heating the whole corona to extraordinarily high temperatures, we can’t study this region at any other time. This is because coronagraphs – the instruments we use to study the Sun’s atmosphere by creating artificial eclipses – must cover up much of the corona, as well as the Sun’s face in order to produce clear images.

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Eclipses also give us the chance to study Earth’s atmosphere under uncommon conditions: the sudden loss of solar radiation from within the Moon’s shadow. We’ll be studying the responses of both Earth’s ionosphere – the region of charged particles in the upper atmosphere – and the lower atmosphere.

Learn all about the Aug. 21 eclipse at eclipse2017.nasa.gov, and follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook for more. Watch the eclipse through the eyes of NASA at nasa.gov/eclipselive starting at 12 PM ET on Aug. 21. 

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On Monday, August 21, 2017, our nation will be treated to a…

On Monday, August 21, 2017, our nation will be treated to a total eclipse of the Sun. The eclipse will be visible – weather permitting – across all of North America. The entire continent will experience at least a partial eclipse lasting two to three hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a 60 to 70 mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a total eclipse. During those brief moments when the moon completely blocks the Sun’s bright face for 2+ minutes, day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona, the Sun’s outer atmosphere. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. This is truly one of nature’s most awesome sights. The eclipse provides a unique opportunity to study the Sun, Earth, Moon and their interaction because of the eclipse’s long path over land coast to coast.

Scientists will be able to take ground-based and airborne observations over a period of about 90 minutes to complement the wealth of data provided by NASA assets.

Watch this and other eclipse videos on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/8jaxiha8-rY?list=PL_8hVmWnP_O2oVpjXjd_5De4EalioxAUi

To learn all about the 2017 Total Eclipse: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/

Music credit: Ascending Lanterns by Philip Hochstrate

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How to Safely Watch the Aug. 21 Solar Eclipse

On Aug. 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will be visible in North America. Throughout the continent, the Moon will cover part – or all – of the Sun’s super-bright face for part of the day.

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Since it’s never safe to look at the partially eclipsed or uneclipsed Sun, everyone who plans to watch the eclipse needs a plan to watch it safely. One of the easiest ways to watch an eclipse is solar viewing glasses – but there are a few things to check to make sure your glasses are safe:

  •  Glasses should have an ISO 12312-2 certification
  • They should also have the manufacturer’s name and address, and you can check if the manufacturer has been verified by the American Astronomical Society
  • Make sure they have no scratches or damage
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To use solar viewing glasses, make sure you put them on before looking up at the Sun, and look away before you remove them. Proper solar viewing glasses are extremely dark, and the landscape around you will be totally black when you put them on – all you should see is the Sun (and maybe some types of extremely bright lights if you have them nearby).

Never use solar viewing glasses while looking through a telescope, binoculars, camera viewfinder, or any other optical device. The concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury. But you can use solar viewing glasses on top of your regular eyeglasses, if you use them!

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If you don’t have solar viewing glasses, there are still ways to watch, like making your own pinhole projector. You can make a handheld box projector with just a few simple supplies – or simply hold any object with a small hole (like a piece of cardstock with a pinhole, or even a colander) above a piece of paper on the ground to project tiny images of the Sun.

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Of course, you can also watch the entire eclipse online with us. Tune into nasa.gov/eclipselive starting at noon ET on Aug. 21! 

For people in the path of totality, there will be a few brief moments when it is safe to look directly at the eclipse. Only once the Moon has completely covered the Sun and there is no light shining through is it safe to look at the eclipse. Make sure you put your eclipse glasses back on or return to indirect viewing before the first flash of sunlight appears around the Moon’s edge.

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You can look up the length of the total eclipse in your area to help you set a time for the appropriate length of time. Remember – this only applies to people within the path of totality.

Everyone else will need to use eclipse glasses or indirect viewing throughout the entire eclipse!

Photographing the Eclipse

Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a selfie master, try out these tips for photographing the eclipse.  

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#1 — Safety first: Make sure you have the required solar filter to protect your camera.

#2 — Any camera is a good camera, whether it’s a high-end DSLR or a camera phone – a good eye and vision for the image you want to create is most important.

#3 — Look up, down, and all around. As the Moon slips in front of the Sun, the landscape will be bathed in long shadows, creating eerie lighting across the landscape. Light filtering through the overlapping leaves of trees, which creates natural pinholes, will also project mini eclipse replicas on the ground. Everywhere you can point your camera can yield exceptional imagery, so be sure to compose some wide-angle photos that can capture your eclipse experience.

#4 — Practice: Be sure you know the capabilities of your camera before Eclipse Day. Most cameras, and even many camera phones, have adjustable exposures, which can help you darken or lighten your image during the tricky eclipse lighting. Make sure you know how to manually focus the camera for crisp shots.

#5 —Upload your eclipse images to NASA’s Eclipse Flickr Gallery and relive the eclipse through other peoples’ images.

Learn all about the Aug. 21 eclipse at eclipse2017.nasa.gov, and follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook for more. Watch the eclipse through the eyes of NASA at nasa.gov/eclipselive starting at 12 PM ET on Aug. 21.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Counting Down to the Solar Eclipse on August 21

On Aug. 21, 2017, everyone in North America will have the chance to see a solar eclipse if skies are clear. We’re giving you a preview of what you’ll see, how to watch and why scientists are particularly excited for this eclipse.

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On Aug. 21, within a narrow band stretching from Oregon to South Carolina – called the path of totality – the Moon will completely obscure the Sun, giving people on the ground a view of the total solar eclipse. Outside this path – throughout North America, and even in parts of South America – the Moon will block only a portion of the Sun’s face, creating a partial solar eclipse.

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Image credit: T. Ruen

Eclipses happen when the Moon, Sun and Earth line up just right, allowing the Moon to cast its shadow on Earth. Because the Moon’s orbit is tilted with respect to the Sun-Earth plane, its shadow usually passes above or below Earth. But when they all line up and that shadow falls on Earth, we get a solar eclipse.

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How to Watch the Eclipse Safely  

It’s never safe to look directly at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun – so you’ll need special solar viewing glasses or an indirect viewing method, like pinhole projection, to watch at the eclipse.

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If you’re using solar viewing glasses or a handheld solar filter, there are a few important safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Check a few key characteristics to make sure that you have proper solar filters – sunglasses (even very dark ones) or homemade filters are NOT safe  
  • Double-check that your solar filter is not scratched or damaged before you use it
  • Always put your solar filter over your eyes before looking up at the Sun, and look away from the Sun before removing it 
  • Do NOT use your solar filter while looking through telescopes, binoculars, or any other optical device, such as a camera viewfinder – the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury

Get all the details on safety at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

No solar viewing glasses? Pinhole projection is an easy and safe way to watch the eclipse. You can create a pinhole projector from a box, or simply use any object with tiny holes – like a colander or a piece of cardstock with a hole – to project an image of the Sun onto the ground or a piece of paper.

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If you are in the path of totality, there will come a time when the Moon completely obscures the Sun’s bright face. This is called totality, and it is only during this phase – which may last only a few seconds, depending on your location – that it is safe to look directly at the eclipse.

Wherever you are, you can tune into nasa.gov/eclipselive throughout the day on Aug. 21 to hear from our experts and see the eclipse like never before – including views from our spacecraft, aircraft, and more than 50 high-altitude balloons.

A Unique Chance for Scientists

Total solar eclipses provide a unique opportunity to study the Sun and Earth. During a total eclipse, the lower parts of the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, can be seen in a way that cannot completely be replicated by current human-made instruments.

The lower part of the corona is key to understanding many processes on the Sun, including why the Sun’s atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface and the origins of the Sun’s constant stream of solar material and radiation – which can cause changes in the nature of space and impact spacecraft, communications systems, and orbiting astronauts.

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Photo credit: S. Habbal, M. Druckmüller and P. Aniol

For those in the path of totality, the few moments of the total solar eclipse will reveal the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona. 

Total solar eclipses are also a chance to study Earth under uncommon conditions: In contrast to the global change in light that occurs every day at dusk and dawn, a solar eclipse changes illumination of Earth and its atmosphere only under a comparatively small region of the Moon’s shadow. This localized blocking of solar energy is useful in evaluating our understanding of the Sun’s effects – temperature, for example – on our atmosphere. Of particular interest is the impact on Earth’s upper atmosphere, where solar illumination is primarily responsible for the generation of a layer of charged particles called the ionosphere.

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We’re also inviting eclipse viewers around the country to become citizen scientists and participate in a nationwide science experiment by collecting cloud and air temperature data and reporting it via the GLOBE Observer smartphone app.

For more eclipse info, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov and follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook.  

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What’s Up for August 2017

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The total solar eclipse on August 21 will trace a narrow path across the nation, although most of the U.S. will see a partial eclipse. Here’s what to do before, during and after the eclipse, plus how you can become a citizen scientist helping us with eclipse observations.

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Not everyone can travel to the path of totality, so here are some things you can do whether you see totality or a partial eclipse. 

Collecting Citizen Science

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Want to be a citizen scientist? 

Before the eclipse, make and pack your very own eclipse toolkit, containing a notebook, pen, a clock, a stopwatch, the front page of a newspaper, a thermometer, and a stick with a piece of crepe paper tied to it. Don’t forget your assistant, who will help conduct science observations. 

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Practice using a citizen scientist phone app, like our GLOBE app to study clouds, air and surface temperatures and other observations. Go to the location where you plan to observe the eclipse and check for any obstructions. You may want to focus on only one activity as the eclipse will last less than 3 minutes … or just really experience the eclipse. 

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Cell phones don’t take eclipse video! And plan to have your safe eclipse-viewing glasses within reach for before and after totality.

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Just before totality, if you have a good view of the horizon, look west to see the approaching shadow. After totality, look east low on the horizon for the departing shadow.

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During totality, look for stars. You should be able to see the star Regulus in the solar corona or the stars of Orion.

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During totality, we may see moving bands of shadows, like on the bottom of a swimming pool.

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How dark does it get at totality? Look at the newspaper you brought with you. What is the smallest print you can read?

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How much does the temperature drop? Does the wind stop or change direction?

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Use your hands, a sheet of paper with a hole in it, a kitchen colander or any other object with one or more holes to use as a pinhole projector. You’ll be able to see the crescent shape of the sun projected through the holes.

Find out more about the eclipse, including eclipse safety, at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov

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What’s Up for July 2017

Prepare for the August total solar eclipse by observing the moon phases this month. Plus, two meteor showers peak at the end of July.

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Solar eclipses occur when the new moon passes between the Earth and the sun and moon casts a traveling shadow on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the new moon is in just the right position to completely cover the sun’s disk.

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This will happen next month on August 21, when the new month completely blocks our view of the sun along a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina.

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It may even be dark enough during the eclipse to see some of the brighter stars and few planets!

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Two weeks before or after a solar eclipse, there is often, but not always, a lunar eclipse. This happens because the full moon, the Earth and the sun will be lined up with Earth in the middle.

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Beginning July 1, we can see all the moon’s phases.

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Many of the Apollo landing sites are on the lit side of the first quarter moon. But to see these sites, you’ll have to rely on images for lunar orbiting spacecraft.

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On July 9, the full moon rises at sunset and July 16 is the last quarter. The new moon begins on July 23 and is the phase we’ll look forward to in August, when it will give us the total solar eclipse. The month of July ends with a first quarter moon.

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We’ll also have two meteor showers, both of which peak on July 30. The Delta Aquarids will have 25 meteors per hour between midnight and dawn.

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The nearby slow and bright Alpha Capricornids per at 5 per hour and often produce fireballs.

Watch the full video:

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The Moon Just Photobombed NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

On May 25, 2017, the moon photobombed one of our sun-watching satellites by passing directly between the satellite and the sun.

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The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, orbits Earth and watches the sun nearly 24/7 — except when another body, like the moon, gets in the way. These lunar photobombs are called transits, the generic term for when any celestial body passes in front of another.

Transits are one way we detect distant worlds. When a planet in another star system passes in front of its host star, it blocks some of the star’s light so the star appears slightly dimmer. By monitoring changes in a star’s light over time, scientists can deduce the presence of a planet, and even determine what its atmosphere is like. This method has been used to discover thousands of planets, including the TRAPPIST-1 planets.

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SDO sees lunar transits about twice a year, and this one lasted about an hour with the moon covering about 89 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the sun’s face.

When they’re seen from Earth, we call lunar transits by another name: eclipses.

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Solar eclipses are just a special kind of transit where the moon blocks all or part of our view of the sun. Since SDO’s view of the sun was only partially blocked, it saw a partial eclipse. Later this year, on Aug. 21, a total eclipse will be observable from the ground: The moon will completely block the sun’s face in some parts of the US, creating a total solar eclipse on a 70-mile-wide stretch of land, called the path of totality, that runs from Oregon to South Carolina.

Throughout the rest of North America — and even in parts of South America, Africa, Europe and Asia — the moon will partially obscure the sun, creating a partial eclipse. SDO will also witness this partial eclipse.

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Total solar eclipses are incredible, cosmic coincidences: The sun is about 400 times wider than the moon, but it also happens to be 400 times farther away, so the sun and moon appear to be the same size in our sky. This allows the moon to completely block the sun when they line up just right.

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Within the path of totality, the moon completely obscures the sun’s bright face, revealing the comparatively faint corona — the sun’s pearly-white outer atmosphere.

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It’s essential to observe eye safety during an eclipse. You must use proper eclipse glasses or an indirect viewing method when any part of the sun’s surface is exposed, whether during the partial phases of an eclipse, or just on a regular day. If you’re in the path of totality, you may look at  the eclipse ONLY during the brief moments of totality.

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A total solar eclipse is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights, so make your plans now for August 21! You’ll also be able to see the eclipse cross the country that day through the eyes of NASA – including views of the partial eclipse from SDO – on NASA TV and at nasa.gov.

Learn more about the August eclipse — including where, when, and how to safely see it — at eclipse2017.nasa.gov and follow along on Twitter @NASASun.

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

With only four months left in the mission, Cassini is busy at Saturn. The upcoming cargo launch, anniversaries and more!

As our Cassini spacecraft made its first-ever dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017, one of its imaging cameras took a series of rapid-fire images that were used to make this movie sequence. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Hampton University

1-3. The Grand Finale

Our Cassini spacecraft has begun its final mission at Saturn. Some dates to note:

  • May 28, 2017: Cassini makes its riskiest ring crossing as it ventures deeper into Saturn’s innermost ring (D ring).
  • June 29, 2017: On this day in 2004, the Cassini orbiter and its travel companion the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe arrived at Saturn.
  • September 15, 2017: In a final, spectacular dive, Cassini will plunge into Saturn – beaming science data about Saturn’s atmosphere back to Earth to the last second. It’s all over at 5:08 a.m. PDT.
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4. Cargo Launch to the International Space Station

June 1, 2017: Target date of the cargo launch. The uncrewed Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 39A at our Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The payload includes NICER, an instrument to measure neutron stars, and ROSA, a Roll-Out Solar Array that will test a new solar panel that rolls open in space like a party favor.

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5. Sojourner

July 4, 2017: Twenty years ago, a wagon-sized rover named Sojourner blazed the trail for future Mars explorers – both robots and, one day, humans. Take a trip back in time to the vintage Mars Pathfinder websites:

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6. Voyager

August 20, 2017: Forty years and still going strong, our twin Voyagers mark 40 years since they left Earth.

7. Total Solar Eclipse

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August 21, 2017: All of North America will be treated to a rare celestial event: a total solar eclipse. The path of totality runs from Oregon to South Carolina.

8. From Science Fiction to Science Fact

Light a candle for the man who took rocketry from science fiction to science fact. On this day in 1882, Robert H. Goddard was born in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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9. Looking at the Moon

October 28, 2017: Howl (or look) at the moon with the rest of the world. It’s time for the annual International Observe the Moon Night.

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10. Last Human on the Moon

December 13, 2017: Forty-five years ago, Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan left the last human footprint on the moon.

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

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