Oh shit! The motherfucking Erf is hungrrrrrrrry. Check it out as it takes a bite of the Sun. Munchin’ on plasma gets the heart beating like you wouldn’t believe. In all honesty, this is a picture snagged by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, and the reasons for it appearing the way it does is beyond me.
But not Phil Plait.
The orbit of SDO is inclined to maximize the viewing time for the Sun and to maintain a continuous downlink for its very large data stream (it sends about 15 megabytes of data to Earth every second!). Because of the way the orbits work out, twice a year there is a period where the orbit of the Earth around the Sun and SDO around the Earth line up, and for brief times the Earth does block the Sun from SDO’s view. These are called eclipse seasons, and we’re currently in one right now.
This image, taken on March 29, 2011, shows what happens: the bottom half of the Sun is gone is because the Earth is in the way! Our atmosphere blurs the edge a bit in this ultraviolet image, giving the dark part a rough edge. From SDO’s position, the Earth appears far larger than the Sun, which is why the dividing line is almost straight.
Well, there you go! I just call it dope picture, my Simian brain boggled.