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Photos Capture a Beautiful Crescent Sun

Pictures of the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012

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For several hours on May 20, 2012, the Moon partially blocked the light of the Sun. Because the Moon was farther from Earth than it usually is, it couldn't completely blot out the Sun, creating what's called an annular eclipse.

For those fortunate enough to be on a narrow path cutting across the planet, they saw the Moon centered in the Sun's disk, surrounded by a "Ring of Fire" - an annulus of light around the silhouetted Moon. The rest of us saw a partial eclipse... or nothing at all. But thousands of pictures were taken, and many people graciously sent them to me so I can display them here. 

All pictures are used by permission of the photographer, and link to the original, usually bigger version.

The view of the eclipse from Alberta, Canada by Mark Langridge, who had a Celestron 8" telescope aimed at it. Using a Canon EOS 60Da camera and a solar filter, this magnified shot shows the edge of the Moon cutting across the bright Sun, itself peppered with sunspots. Don't be fooled by the scale though: those spots are each as big or bigger than the whole Earth!

Original picture

Small telescopes are great for projecting the image of the Sun onto a wall or ceiling, which is what Twitter user ingrum did... but also got a bonus! The bright sunlight coming in through the window created a lens flare, a reflection inside his camera. Much dimmer than the direct sunlight itself, you can see a perfect little eclipsed Sun in the reflection!

Original picture

While we were doing the live webcast of the eclipse, Lee Skelton sent us two phenomenal pictures taken from his hotel room while he was staying in Tokyo - Japan had an excellent view of the complete annular eclipse. This first picture was during the maximum part of the eclipse, and even through the clouds you can see the "Ring of Fire"; the incompletely-blocked surface of the Sun by the Moon.

Original picture

The second picture Lee Skelton sent us during the webcast was taken just minutes later, as the Moon started to move off the Sun. Just as the edge of the Moon hit the edge of the Sun, they formed a cosmic crescent in the sky, marking the beginning of the end of this event.

Original picture

The European Space Agency microsatellite Proba-2 took this great shot from space! Designed to look in the far-ultraviolet part of the spectrum, it sees magnetic activity on the Sun like sunspots, towering loops of ionized gas, and streamers reaching outward from the Sun's surface. Because Proba-2 orbits the Earth in less than 2 hours, it actually saw multiple eclipses, one for each time it passed into the Moon's shadow! This is a still image from just one. ESA put a video online showing them all, and it's amazing. Credit: ESA/ROB

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Twitter user Matt Hewes got this lovely overexposed shot of the Sun, revealing the eclipse in an internal reflection - a "lens flare" - in his camera.

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If you don't know Mike Phirm, you should. Half of the comedy music duo Hard and Phirm (with Nerdist lord Chris Hardwick), he does the amazing song Chicken Monkey Duck. Just go watch it.

He has a quirky sense of humor, and took advantage of the eclipse by punching a couple of holes in a card and making this shadow puppet. Clearly, they both enjoyed the event.

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From Little Rock, Arkansas, Stephen Caldwell took this lovely picture of the setting Sun over the western hills. From that far east in the US, the eclipse had barely begun before the Earth's rotation swept it away, so I'm glad Stephen had the time to get this. 

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Here's another shot of the solar eclipse look like from space, this time by NASA's Earth-observing satellite Terra snapped this shot while the shadow of the Moon fell over the northwest Pacific ocean (very close to the same time as the MTSAT shot in this gallery). Clouds swirl to the east, which probably would have blocked the view for anyone underneath as the eclipse shadow sped northeastward to pass by first the Aleutian Islands off Alaska, and then southeast to to the United States. Credit: NASA/Terra

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Meteorologist Wayne Blankenship caught the eclipsed Sun moments before it disappeared behind the hills in America's southwest. He took an amazing series of Ring of Fire shots, too, which he posted on Twitter.

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Astronomer and science writer Jason Major - who participated in my live webcast of the eclipse - took enough time to run outside and capture the Sun setting while the eclipse was still ongoing. The hazy Dallas, Texas skies tinted the whole scene orange.

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This stunning image was taken by the geostationary satellite MTSAT right around midnight UTC May 20/21. You can see the shadow of the Moon on the northwest Pacific ocean, with Japan and Asia to the left, and Australia thousands of kilometers farther south.

Credit: 

PHL @ UPR Arecibo, NASA, EUMETSAT, NERC Satellite Receiving Station, University of Dundee. Tip o' the eclipse glasses to Universe Today.

Original Picture (and YES you want to click that!) 

Hands-down one of my favorite pictures from this event, Alok Singhal took this in Berkeley, California by holding up a pair of binoculars and letting them project two images of the Sun on a wall. By artfully stepping into the right spot, the twin Suns became eyes looking back at him as he looked at them!

Original picture

My friend Anne Wheaton was at Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border, and asked me how to observe the eclipse. She needn't have bothered; the trees did it for her! Overlapping leaves provided thousands of natural pinhole cameras, each focusing an image of the Sun on the ground. Many, many people saw this effect, including John Knoll who took an amazing video of it as the leaves blew in the wind! 

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You don't need fancy equipment to see an eclipse. My friend Anne Wheaton told me how she took this picture: "I stabbed a pen tip through my valet ticket and looked at it on my friend's sweatshirt. Crafty!" When light rays from the Sun pass through a small hole, all the rays coming out are parallel, so they're in focus. The smaller the hole, the better. That's how a pinhole camera works, and is one of the safest - and most fun - ways to look at the Sun.

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What does a solar eclipse look like from the orbiting International Space Station? Here you go! Astronaut Don Petit took this astonishing picture at 23:36 during mid-eclipse. I have to think they had the best seat on off the planet! Credit: NASA

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From San Jose, California, Chris White took this sequence of shots that he put together into a montage. From that location, nearly 90% of the Sun's face was blocked by the Moon. The order runs from left to right, top to bottom. Sunspots are clearly visible, and look at how the color of the Sun gets more orange as it gets closer to setting. In the last two pictures you can see it passing behind power lines and trees. Lovely! 

Original picture

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