Stunning Spacecraft Photos Show Moon Eclipsing the Sun
On Oct. 7, 2010, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, observed its first lunar transit when the new moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the sun. With SDO watching the sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, the dark moon created a partial eclipse of the sun.
Credit: NASA

A spacecraft gazing at the sun has caught some stunning views of the moon eclipsing the sun as seen from space.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory snapped the eye-catching photos of the moon passing in front of the sun on Oct. 7. [Photo of the moon and sun from space]

This was not a natural partial solar eclipse like those that can be seen from Earth when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun. Rather, the eclipse was only visible from the vantage point of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which is currently in orbit above Earth.  

"The very sharp edge of the lunar limb allows us to measure the in-orbit characteristics of the telescope ? light diffraction on optics and filter support grids," said SDO science team member Karel Schrijver, of Lockheed-Martin's Solar and Astrophysics Lab. "Once these are characterized, we can use that information to correct our data for instrumental effects and sharpen up the images to even more detail."

In the new photos, the rough terrain of the moon can clearly be seen in silhouette against the bright backdrop of the sun. The sun appears as it would in the ultraviolet range of the light spectrum.

NASA launched the sun-watching observatory in February on a five-year mission to continually watch the sun. It is the first mission to launch under NASA's Living With a Star program.

The $850 million spacecraft is equipped with three cameras to monitor the sun and take high-definition photos of our nearest star.