Martians Only!

Partial solar eclipse in Asia and Europe.

by Discover:

The silhouette of the Moon taking a dark bite out of the Sun is obvious enough, as are some interesting sunspots on the Sun’s face… but wait a sec… that one spot isn’t a spot at all, it’s the International Space Station! This was a double eclipse!

To give you an overall idea of what you’re seeing here: the Sun is 147 million kilometers away (less than usual because this eclipse happened, coincidentally, very close to perihelion, when Earth was closest to the Sun). The Moon is 390,000 kilometers away.

That dot is the International Space Station.

The Sun is about 400 times bigger than the Moon, but also about 400 times farther away, making them look about the same size in the sky. If you’re still having a hard time picturing the scale, take a look at the dark sunspot in the lower right of the big picture: it’s about twice the size of the Earth!

The space station, on the other hand, is 100 meters across (the size of a football field) and orbits about 350 km (210 miles) above the Earth’s surface. So the Moon was very roughly 1000 times farther away than the ISS when this picture was taken, and the Sun 400,000 times more distant. Yet all three lined up just right to make this extraordinary photograph possible.


Look how tiny the space station is compared to the sun! The vastness of the sun is so exhilarating!