March 2016 Total Solar Eclipse

  • Released Wednesday, March 16th, 2016
  • Updated Tuesday, November 14th, 2023 at 12:32AM

These two views of the March 2016 total solar eclipse, visible to those living in parts of Indonesia (including Sumatra, Borneo, and Sulawesi) and from locations in the Pacific Ocean, look similar but come from completely different perspectives. The side-by-side visualizations reveal information about the orbits of the two instruments that observed the event.

On the left, a series of images taken by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) onboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) show the eclipse from its orbit at the first Lagrange point (L1)—a point about 1,000,000 miles (1,609,344 km) from Earth where the force of Earth's gravity almost exactly matches that of the Sun. As the DSCOVR spacecraft slowly orbits around L1 (always viewing the sunlit side of Earth) the area of reflected sunlight near the center of the globe remains stationary. During the eclipse, the moon’s shadow crosses the face of the Earth’s surface as Earth appears to rotate from left (west) to right (east) below.

In contrast, Himawari-8, a Japanese weather spacecraft, is in geostationary orbit at an altitude of ~35,791 km (22,239 mi). This means that Himawari-8 is positioned over a particular spot on Earth—located at 141 degrees East, 0 degrees North. During the eclipse, the moon's shadow appears mid-ocean and races off to the east (right), while the area of reflected sunlight appears to move right (east) to left (west) across the Earth’s surface. The instruments onboard Himawari-8 and DSCOVR use different spectral bands so the colors of the two images appear different.

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Credits

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"simplecolor" Himawari-8 images from NOAA/Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), DSCOVR/EPIC images NASA Goddard


Datasets used in this visualization

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