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updated 4/1/2011 7:18:27 AM ET 2011-04-01T11:18:27

A powerful NASA solar observatory has snapped an amazing view of the sun, a photo that shows the star partially obscured by the Earth.

The photo, obtained Tuesday (March 29) by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, was taken during the spacecraft's so-called eclipse season – a period of the year when the satellite slips behind Earth for up to 72 minutes of every day. [ See the stunning sun photo ]

Sometimes, as the spacecraft swings behind the Earth, the probe is able to catch views of the planet as it blocks the sun. The result is an eerie view in which the sun's bright disk gradually fades from view. 

The image is a striking departure from other SDO photos that show the moon eclipsing the sun, known as lunar transits, which cut a crisp shadowy bite out of the star. [ Amazing New Sun Photos From Space ]

"Earth's shadow has a variegated edge due to its atmosphere, which blocks the sun light to different degrees depending on its density," NASA scientists explained in a photo description. "Also, light from brighter spots on the sun may make it through, which is why some solar features extend low into Earth's shadow."

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory experiences two eclipses seasons every year. The observatory was launched last year and is equipped with several high-definition cameras to beam back stunning views of the sun in different wavelengths.

The $850 million solar observatory is expected to last five years.

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