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NASA sun mission spots stunning solar eclipse in space

A sungazing spacecraft captured the moon passing in front of the face of the sun Wednesday (June 29).

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the solar eclipse in action from its unique vantage point in space, the only spot where this eclipse was visible.

"At the peak of the eclipse, the moon covered 67% of the sun, and lunar mountains were backlit by solar fire," wrote SpaceWeather.com (opens in new tab) Wednesday morning EDT. (NASA had not yet commented about the event.)

Related: The sun's wrath: Worst solar storms in history

Lunar mountains backdropped by the sun during a solar eclipse June 29, 2022 imaged by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/LMSAL)

SDO usually looks at the sun as the source of space weather, or radiation in space that affects the Earth. Aspects it studies include the sun's magnetic field, sunspots and other aspects that influence activity during the regular 11-year solar cycle.

"SDO studies how solar activity is created and drives space weather. The spacecraft's measurements of the sun's interior, atmosphere, magnetic field, and energy output all work to help us understand the star we live with," NASA wrote (opens in new tab) of the mission.

SDO launched in February 2010 and forms part of a network of solar spacecraft from NASA and its partner agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The sun has been quite active lately and unusually early in its cycle, which should reach the peak around 2025.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a solar eclipse on June 29, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/LMSAL)

Scientists are interested in following the origin story of solar flares and accompanying coronal mass ejections of charged particles, which can create colorful auroras in Earth's atmosphere if the CMEs are aimed at our planet. Usually CMEs are harmless, but strong bursts may disrupt satellites, power lines and other infrastructure, which is why scientists are so keen on good predictions. 

Notably, NASA has sent a close-up sungazing mission called Parker Solar Probe to investigate the corona or superheated outer region of the sun, as other satellites watch from further away to gain context.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.