On October 14, 2023, millions of Americans were treated to a spectacular annular solar eclipse. It didn’t only darken the sun, but it also cast a vast shadow on Earth. And while you were looking at the solar eclipse, NASA took a photo of you and this huge shadow from a million miles away.
Also known as “Ring of Fire,” an annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon, moving in front of the Sun, is too distant to block it out entirely. This happens because the Moon is at or near its apogee, its most distant point from Earth. As a result, instead of complete darkness, you see the Sun’s edges forming a mesmerizing glowing ring.
NASA’s EPIC (Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera), mounted on the DSCVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory), took the shot of the Moon’s shadow on Earth. This satellite is a collaboration between NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Air Force. Position at the Lagrange Point 1, a spot with gravitational stability between the Sun and Earth, it sits about 1.5 million kilometers (1 million miles) away from our planet. The camera took the photo at 16:58 Universal Time, showcasing the Moon’s shadow, or umbra, as it draped the southeastern coast of Texas, near Corpus Christi.
As I mentioned, this October’s annular solar eclipse was visible, at least partially, from the entire United States. People from parts of Mexico and even some countries in Central and South America could observe it, too.
If you missed this celestial spectacle, the next annular solar eclipse will be visible from the United States on June 21, 2039. But don’t feel bad, there’s a total solar eclipse way before that! On Monday, April 8, 2024, it will darken areas from Texas to Maine… And I hope you’ll be there to capture it with your camera. Just don’t forget to stay safe and protect your eyes and your camera.