ISS astronauts ready to watch the solar eclipse from space on April 8

NASA astronauts and weather satellites will watch a solar eclipse from space next week.

SpaceX Crew-8 astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), along with at least one of the two Russian Soyuz crews currently on board, will experience a “very unique vantage point” as a total solar eclipse sweeps over throughout Mexico, the United States. and Canada on April 8, a senior NASA manager said during a live-streamed eclipse science briefing on March 26.

“Instead of looking up at the moon casting its shadow, they will be able to see the shadow racing around the Earth,” Pam Melroy, NASA deputy administrator and former astronaut, said in the briefing. “So there’s participation, and they’ll be able to participate that way.”

The current track of the ISS indicates that astronauts will have three chances to view the eclipse, NASA said in a follow-up release: they will see the shadow cast by a partial eclipse over the Pacific Ocean, partially over California and Idaho, and possibly totality over Maine and New Brunswick at 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT.) Satellites will also have a good view of the unique event, the agency said.

Related: Why ISS astronauts won’t know where to look for the next total solar eclipse for a while

Total solar eclipses occur when the moon completely blocks the sun from Earth’s perspective. Fortunately, you don’t have to be in space to see the event. As long as you are in the right geographical location on our planet and the skies are clear, you can see the much awaited event. You can find out how to do that safely in our solar observation guide.

ISS astronauts won’t be the only astronauts watching the eclipse from orbit. Two satellites in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) series, which are jointly operated by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will use ultraviolet images to view the sun, officials said in a March 26 briefing. The imagers on GOES-16 and GOES-18 will capture the moon’s disk passing in front of the sun, and advanced baseline images on the satellites will track the moon’s shadow.

Two more satellites are scheduled to launch into post-eclipse space for even more solar observations: NOAA’s GOES-U will fly no earlier than June 25 this year to examine the corona, or outer atmosphere of Sun. Also, NOAA’s Space Weather Follow On L1 (SWFO-L1) will fly a million miles from Earth in 2025 to Lagrange Point 1, a gravitationally stable point in space. The satellite will then examine space weather, or the effect of solar activity on our planet.

full disk image of Earth from space

full disk image of Earth from space

An image from the NOAA-NASA GOES-16 satellite shows a full-color visible image of Earth on January 15, 2017. (Image credit: NOAA/NASA)

Expedition 71 astronauts on the ISS will witness the rare adventure in space. That group includes Crew-8 and the long-duration astronauts scheduled to come home this fall on Soyuz MS-25. (The Soyuz crew is in space for a short time now, but is expected to return home before eclipse day.)

The astronauts aboard the ISS are well trained to take pictures of dynamic events, but the challenge is their orbit, NASA Crew-8 astronaut Michael Barratt told on January 25 during an interview pre-launch telephones from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. .

Since the ISS must periodically boost its orbit to avoid falling back into the Earth’s atmosphere, and a last-minute change may be required to avoid space debris, the astronauts will not know their exact position until close to April 8, he said.

“Every once in a while, we have to change our station’s orbit to avoid hitting things,” Barratt said. “The closer we get [to April], the more we will be able to sharpen our approach. We will know what viewing angle we will have.”

a view of a distant solar eclipse over clouds and an airplane winga view of a distant solar eclipse over clouds and an airplane wing

a view of a distant solar eclipse over clouds and an airplane wing

Barratt pointed out one advantage of the ISS observations: Compared to the last total solar eclipse that swept across the US in 2017, the camera technology has improved. He didn’t see that eclipse from space, but he had a unique view aboard an Alaska Airlines charter flight watching it at 40,000 feet (12,200 meters).

“The shadow was swinging straight, heading towards the mainland. It was amazing to me,” he recalled of the 2017 eclipse in a interview.


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The ISS is jointly managed by NASA and Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency. Expedition 71 mission specialist Alexander Grebenki, a cosmonaut who is part of Crew-8, told on January 25 that he had not yet received specific details about the eclipse observations.

“I didn’t really train specifically for observation,” Grebenkin said, speaking in Russian through an English interpreter. “I know it’s going to happen, and I’m planning to do my best to take pictures and also watch the event itself.”

If you want to watch the solar eclipse on Earth, we have you covered. Our guide to how to observe the sun safely tells you what you need to know to observe the sun. We also have a guide to eclipse sunglasses, and how to safely photograph the sun if you want to practice before the big day.

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