Video: Solar probe watches eclipse in space

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updated 2/2/2010 1:54:41 PM ET 2010-02-02T18:54:41

A spacecraft in Earth orbit recently captured a rare view of a solar eclipse from space.

During a solar eclipse the moon passes between Earth and the sun, and when the three are perfectly aligned, the sun's disk is blocked out by the moon.

The sight was witnessed on Earth by people across Africa and Asia on Jan. 15. The view from space, meanwhile, was captured on video by the European Space Agency's sun-watching Proba-2 spacecraft.

The probe, which was launched in November 2009, carries scientific instruments to monitor the sun and space weather.

The Jan. 15 eclipse wasn't a total eclipse, when the moon is the right distance from Earth to block out all of the sun's face. In this type of event, called an annular eclipse, the moon was further away from Earth and so blocked out less of the sun's disk. With a maximum length of 11 minutes, 8 seconds, it was the longest eclipse of the millennium so far.

To study the event, India launched a fleet of small rockets to see how the drop in sunlight as the moon blocked part of the sun affected Earth's atmosphere.

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