NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Witnesses a Double Eclipse


Early in the morning of Sept. 1, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, caught both Earth and the moon crossing in front of the sun. SDO keeps a constant eye on the sun, but during SDO’s semiannual eclipse seasons, Earth briefly blocks SDO’s line of sight each day – a consequence of SDO’s geosynchronous orbit. On Sept. 1, Earth completely eclipsed the sun from SDO’s perspective just as the moon began its journey across the face of the sun. The end of the Earth eclipse happened just in time for SDO to catch the final stages of the lunar transit.

In the SDO data, you can tell Earth and the moon’s shadows apart by their edges: Earth’s is fuzzy, while the moon’s is sharp and distinct. This is because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs some of the sun’s light, creating an ill-defined edge. On the other hand, the moon has no atmosphere, producing a crisp horizon.

This particular geometry of Earth, the moon and the sun had effects on viewing down on the ground as well: It resulted in a simultaneous eclipse visible from southern Africa. The eclipse was what’s known as a ring of fire, or annular, eclipse, which is similar to a total solar eclipse, except it happens when the moon is at a point in its orbit farther from Earth than average. The increased distance causes the moon’s apparent size to be smaller, so it doesn’t block the entire face of the sun. This leaves a bright, narrow ring of the solar surface visible, looking much like a ring of fire.

via: NASA

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star


Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016.

Just over four light-years from the Solar System lies a red dwarf star that has been named Proxima Centauri as it is the closest star to Earth apart from the Sun. This cool star in the constellation of Centaurus is too faint to be seen with the unaided eye and lies near to the much brighter pair of stars known as Alpha Centauri AB.

Guillem Anglada-Escudé concludes:

“Many exoplanets have been found and many more will be found, but searching for the closest potential Earth-analogue and succeeding has been the experience of a lifetime for all of us. Many people’s stories and efforts have converged on this discovery. The result is also a tribute to all of them. The search for life on Proxima b comes next…”

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