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PROBA2 Observes Solar Eclipse on November 13th, 2012

At 6:38 on November 14 local time (21:38 on November 13 Belgian time) astronomers and sky watchers of all kinds were treated to a total solar eclipse in Australia. For scientists who study the sun, a total solar eclipse is a unique chance to observe the solar atmosphere, or the solar corona, in all its glory. Under normal circumstances the light coming from the corona is too faint to see because of the blinding effect of the solar disk. During a total solar eclipse the moon blocks the bright light from the surface of the sun, leaving the corona visible.

Click the image above to view the movie of the eclipse

Scientists plan to compare visible light images of the Australian eclipse with images taken in space in extreme ultraviolet light. The SWAP telescope, made in Belgium and carried onboard the ESA satellite PROBA2, was one of several instruments used for this. At the same time as observers in Australia watched the eclipse, PROBA2's orbit in space gave the satellite a clear view of the sun, allowing astronomers to obtain extreme ultraviolet images that can be used to match features seen during the eclipse to their source regions on the sun itself.

Totality of the solar eclipse as seen from Cairns, Australia

A Belgian scientist, Dr. Anik De Groof, travelled to Australia to track the eclipse from the ground. 

"SWAP is able to observe the inner corona right down to the solar surface," she said. "Other instruments, called coronagraphs, mimic a solar eclipse by blocking out the sun with an occulting disc. Such instruments can reveal the corona in visible light, but only at a significant height above the solar surface. Only during a total solar eclipse like the one in Australia we can obtain observations that can be directly compared with the extreme ultraviolet images we get from space-based instruments like SWAP. With observations of the corona in visible light from a small army of solar observers on the ground in Australia and observations in extreme ultraviolet light from SWAP we can help answer some fundamental questions about the heating and structure of the corona and the origins of the solar wind."
Read Anik's personal report here.
Also LYRA observed the eclipse:
Eclipse seen by LYRA

As soon as more data become available they will be published on this page.


Mosaic composited image
SWAP's Eclipse
Movie snapshot
Totality from the ground
PROBA2 Observes Solar Eclipse on November 13th, 2012