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Thousands of Australians and satellite view spectacular total eclipse

Dark Dawn Down Under wows crowds and boffins

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Vids As Aussies enjoyed a spectacular total eclipse of the Sun lastnight, the European Space Agency's Proba-2 satellite orbiting out in space also got an eyeful as it passed in and out of the moon's shadow zone.

Proba-2, a Sun-watching sat, orbits the Earth around 14.5 times a day. It dipped in and out of the Moon's shadow during the total solar eclipse as viewed from Earth. The spacecraft got three views of the eclipse yesterday but the Sun was never completely gone, making each a partial eclipse.

The video above was put together from the images snapped by the sat's SWAP imager. From SWAP's ultraviolet view, stormy active regions on the Sun were shown, including sunspots, the roots of large solar flares.

“The satellite also spent hours collecting data of the solar environment further away from the Sun before and after the main eclipse event, providing context for the ground-based observations,” said Joe Zender, Proba-2 mission manager.

Looking closely at the Sun is only possible from the ground during eclipses, when the bright star is obscured, briefly showing the corona and the red glow of the chromosphere.

“Combining visible light observations with the extreme ultraviolet images from Proba-2 gives us a unique opportunity to access difficult-to-see regions of the Sun at different wavelengths, during a rare event such as a total solar eclipse,” added Zender.

On the ground, Proba-2 boffin Anik De Groof was watching the two-minute total eclipse with thousands of Australians on the coast at Palm Cove.

“We got all a bit nervous when after sunrise the partially eclipsed Sun was covered by a big cloud, but 5 minutes before totality, the cloud dissolved and we could watch ‘Baily’s beads’ form – the effect where beads of sunlight shine through the rugged lunar landscape,” said De Groof.

“At totality we could see the red chromosphere and the corona in the most beautiful conditions – it was fantastic!” ®

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