The moon passes between the sun and the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite that observes the Sun. Credit: NASA
Solar eclipses are fun to view on Earth–you get to break out the specialized camera lenses, or even build your own pinhole camera to safely watch as the dark bulk of the moon blocks out the light of the sun, however briefly.
But, like a whole lot of things, solar eclipses are better in space. Late last month, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) had its view of our star interrupted for an hour while our moon just happened to wander into (and eventually out of) the frame. This isn’t the first time a satellite like the SDO has captured an intruding object as it leaps into the camera frame of the celestial body that the satellite is actually designed to study.
Here are a few notable examples from recent years:
In August 2016, the moon passes once again between the sun and the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite that observes the Sun. Credit: NASA
Earlier this year, the Moon interrupted the SDO again, barging into the satellite’s view, and back in 2015, a camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite saw the Moon spectacularly photobomb the Earth.
The moon passes between the sun and the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, which usually observes climate patterns on the Earth from a million miles away. Credit: NASA
In all three of these images, the Moon looks rather large, and that’s because relatively speaking, it’s closer to the satellites. But the Moon isn’t the only object in the solar system that can get in the way of a picture.
In this composite image Mercury passes between the sun and the SDO. Mercury and Venus are the only two planets to transit the Sun from the perspective of Earth, as they are the only two planets closer to the sun than Earth. Credit: NASA
Mercury, which is much further away (and appears much smaller), also happened to transit the Sun last year while the SDO watched. The resulting images are not as dramatic as the Moon’s photobombs, but still pretty incredible.