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See rare total solar eclipse from nearly 1 million miles away

NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory spotted the Dec. 4 total solar eclipse from space.  (Image credit: NOAA)
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The only total solar eclipse of 2021 was one few could see and this new photo from a spacecraft nearly 1 million miles from Earth shows why. 

The photo, taken by NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DISCOVR), tracked the solar eclipse as the moon's shadow passed over a remote stretch of Antarctica and the south pole on Dec. 4. Taken from a distance of more than 950,000 miles (1.5 million km), the moon's shadow appears as a dark blemish at the very bottom of our world in the image.

"It would have been a long way for most of us to travel to go see the total solar eclipse in Antarctica this past weekend, but we'd have to travel even further to get this view," the Planetary Society space advocacy group observed on Twitter (opens in new tab) of the image.

DISCOVR's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, or EPIC, built by NASA captured the view. "The EPIC instrument on the DSCOVR spacecraft captured the eclipse's umbra, the dark, inner shadow of planet Earth," NASA officials wrote in a description. "Shaped like a cone extending into space, it has a circular cross section most easily seen during an eclipse."

Related: The only total solar eclipse of 2021 in pictures: Amazing photos from Antarctica

DISCOVR also got a full-disc view of Earth that even astronauts were not able to access. That said, the Expedition 66 crew on the International Space Station did spot an oblong shadow from 250 miles (400 km) in altitude.

The usual mission of DISCOVR is also focused on the sun, but at a completely different angle. DISCOVR monitors the solar wind, or the constant stream of particles that flow from our sun across the solar system. Charged particles carried on the solar wind can influence everything from auroral activity to impacts on satellites, power lines and astronaut health.

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Antarctica was a less accessible spot than usual, but several future solar eclipses will be in far more available regions (including one in 2024 that crosses the United States.)

You can prepare for future solar eclipses with our guide on how to photograph a solar eclipse safely. Our best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography guides will help you pick the best gear to prepare for the next solar eclipse, too.

Editor's Note: If you snap an amazing solar eclipse photo and would like to share it with Space.com's readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com (opens in new tab).

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace.  Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a regular contributor to Live Science and Space.com, along with several other science publications. She is one of a handful of Canadian reporters who specializes in space reporting. Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Journalism, Science Concentration at Carleton University (Canada) and an M.Sc. Space Studies (distance) at the University of North Dakota. Elizabeth became a full-time freelancer after earning her M.Sc. in 2012. She reported on three space shuttle launches in person and once spent two weeks in an isolated Utah facility pretending to be a Martian.