The Solar Eclipse as You've Never Seen It Before

Bringing the moon's face out of the shadows
754921main_Sun-Moon-650.jpg

In most pictures of a solar eclipse, the face of the moon you see is a black sphere, as in the image above. With the sun directly on the other side of the moon from us, the side we see is entirely in the shadows, a black hole.

Visualization specialists at NASA decided to fill in that space. Working off an image collected on October 7, 2010, Scott Wiessinger and Ernie Wright matched imagery of the lunar landscape directly onto where it would have appeared had there been any light shining on it. They were extremely precise -- using animation software to get the angles, distances, and features all into their proper places around the sphere. In the end, according to a NASA press release, "The two images were put together and the overlay was exact. The mountains and valleys on the horizon of the LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] picture fit right into the shadows seen by SDO [Solar Dynamics Observatory]."

The resulting image doesn't look quite real -- and of course, by a certain definition, it's not: You could never see this during an eclipse. And yet, that is what's there, and thanks to a little computer software and a lot of careful observation, we can see it.

754922main_Sun-fullMoon-650.jpg

For a side-by-side comparison:

754908main_sun-moon-650.jpg
Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In