Here is a great answer with photos of the shadow of the moon on the Earth's surface (umbra) during a total solar eclipse, taken by real people in space, and links to even more of them. I think there's been about seven in total (see here and here).

But has the Moon's shadow on the Earth (solar eclipse umbra) ever been photographed from beyond Earth orbit? For this question photos by satellites are of course fine!

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ We don't send much spacecraft beyond earth orbit, and when we do, they tends not to linger much long in earth vicinity where they could take a picture of a relatively rare event. Besides, they usually have much better things to do during this short time than expand monopropellant to orient their limited telephoto lens towards earth. $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ If you mean the LRO picture, since it is on the moon, which is in earth orbit, I thought it would be disqualified by your requirements. (A deep space picture). $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ From fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusion_(mathématiques) and the transitivity rule (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitive_relation ) , Given Earth orbit E and Moon M; (E⊂M and M⊂LRO) => E⊂LRO $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Antzi I have just asked How many spacecraft have taken a “Pale Blue Dot” type photo of the Earth from beyond cis-lunar space? and I think you will be surprised at the number of spacecraft that have done so. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 5:54

3 Answers 3


The Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft has observed both the 2016 and 2017 eclipses and probably every solar eclipse since it's arrived, as EPIC is always looking at the sunlit part of Earth. DSCOVR is at the Sun-Earth L₁ point, roughly 4× farther out than the Moon.

2016 (edited and zoomed in):

DSCOVR eclipse photo
Source: NASA.

2017 (entire disk, straight from image browser): DSCOVER eclipse photo 2017
Source: NASA

You can browse photos for yourself at the EPIC browser, searching for 2017-08-21 and you'll see the so-called “Great American Eclipse” soon enough.

NASA also produced an animation at of the 2016 eclipse at:


Sun-Earth L₁ is 1.5 million km from Earth, which is farther than the Moon, which has a semi-major axis of 384,000 km.

Although it didn't seem to happen during the eclipse, during the solar eclipse or indeed any new Moon, the Moon can't be very far from the field of view of EPIC. Indeed, sometimes the Moon "photo bombs":

not an eclipse

Not quite as far away is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which took the following photo during the 2017 total eclipse. Note that during a solar eclipse (and any new moon) the entire disk of the Earth is sunlit as seen from the moon:

LRO eclipse photo

  • $\begingroup$ Lissajous orbits are Heliocentric orbits that are a bit wiggly because they are modified by the Earth a bit, but they are not in Earth orbit. Very nice! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ Did you want to include the other satellite's recent photos in your answer? Eventually I'll post it as another answer if nobody else does. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 0:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I am not sure what other satellite you mean. Do you mean LRO? $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ ya, it's in orbit around the Moon. If the Earth disappeared tomorrow it would stay in orbit around the moon. So I think it's safe to say that it's not in orbit around the Earth. It's not LRO's fault that the Moon just happens to be in orbit around the Sun. For example, when something is in LEO we don't say that it is in orbit around the Sun, even though we know the Earth is in orbit around the Sun. In an inertial frame, DSCOVER circles around the Earth once a year, but we don't call that an Earth orbit either. So LRO counts for this question at least. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh Added that one and another photo where the moon photobombs EPIC. Next time we have an eclipse at the same latitude of the sub-solar-point that's bound to happen simultaneously! $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 10:51

You can now see a smooth animation of the last 8/21 eclipse using the Blueturn app:


More generally, this app interpolates EPIC images received from DSCOVR using relat-time 3D projection techniques. In such this is the first and only interactive video of the Whole Earth, with 2+ year of data. Very recommended!

  • $\begingroup$ It's a web app, nothing gets installed on your machine $\endgroup$
    – maksimov
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 11:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Yes indeed I answered several questions related to DSCOVR with a link to my app, as I thought it is relevant, and I want to make it known by the space community. It is a free app, with no ads. It exists as a web app or as a mobile app (Android or iOS) if you open it from your phone or tablet. Enjoy, and sorry if it may have felt obnoxious. $\endgroup$
    – Mic
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Mic thanks for the reply - OK that sound great. Looking forward to it! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 11:08

While everything orbiting the Moon is also physically orbiting the Earth, one might argue that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is better described as beyond Earth orbit and in lunar orbit than as in Earth orbit - if you had to choose one.

NASA's April 15, 2024 NASA’s LRO Observes 2024 Solar Eclipse Shadow shows images taken by LRO looking backwards at Earth, showing the eclipse and apparently the umbra, though in these exposures it's hard to tell exactly where it is in all that darkness.

Since LRO's cameras are "pushbroom" types - meaning they image a line across (usually) the lunar surface that is swept at a steady pace as the orbiter moves over the lunar surface, they had to artificially "sweep the broom" over the earth by rotating the spacecraft during each exposure.

There are three cameras that comprise the LRO camera (LROC) suite: two Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) and one Wide Angle Camera. The Earth’s image with the shadow in it was acquired by one of the two Narrow Angle Cameras.

The LROC Narrow Angle Cameras are line scanner cameras: they only have one line of pixels, and images are built up line-by-line by the spacecraft’s motion as it orbits the Moon.

Acquiring an image of Earth requires the spacecraft to rapidly rotate to build up the image.

enter image description here

This spectacular image showing the Moon’s shadow on Earth’s surface was acquired during a 20-second period starting at 2:59 p.m. EDT (18:59:19 UTC) on April 8, 2024, by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. When LRO acquired this image, the shadow of the Moon was centered near Cape Girardeau, Mo. NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

cropped and reduced in size to fit the SE format and size limit


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