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Sun and Moon

Two or three times a year, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory observes the moon traveling across the sun, blocking its view. While this obscures solar observations for a short while, it offers the chance for an interesting view of the shadow of the moon. The moon’s crisp horizon can be seen up against the sun, because the moon does not have an atmosphere. (At other times of the year, when Earth blocks SDO’s view, the Earth’s horizon looks fuzzy due to its atmosphere.)

If one looks closely at such a crisp border, the features of the moon’s topography are visible, as is the case in this image from Oct. 7, 2010. This recently inspired two NASA visualizers to overlay a 3-dimensional model of the moon based on data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, into the shadow of the SDO image. Such a task is fairly tricky, as the visualizers — Scott Wiessinger who typically works with the SDO imagery and Ernie Wright who works with the LRO imagery -- had to precisely match up data from the correct time and viewpoint for the two separate instruments. The end result is an awe-inspiring image of the sun and the moon.

Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC



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