NASA's solar observatory witnesses rare double eclipse

NASA’s solar observatory recently witnessed a rare double eclipse when both Earth and the moon passed in front of the sun.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the unusual celestial crossing on Sept. 1. when, according to NASA, Earth “completely eclipsed the sun from SDO’s perspective just as the moon began its journey across the face of the sun.”

The simultaneous eclipse was also visible from southern Africa.

The annular eclipse, also known as “a ring of fire,” happens every two years. During semiannual eclipse season, the Earth briefly blocks the NASA observatory’s view of the sun once a day. But on Thursday, NASA said, the end of the Earth eclipse “happened just in time for SDO to catch the final stages of the lunar transit.”

NASA released a high-definition video of the event with a helpful viewing guide.

“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,” NASA’s Lina Tran explained. “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.”

The double eclipse wasn’t the only stunning footage captured by the space agency of late. Last week, NASA released the first images from its Juno orbiter showing Jupiter’s north and south poles.

“It looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,” NASA’s Scott Bolton said in a statement. “The largest planet in our solar system is truly unique.”