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Triple thrill: Satellite sees three solar eclipses in one day

The sun-gazing Proba-2 satellite had an action-packed day in which it witnessed a partial solar eclipse three times over.

Just one of Proba-2's eclipse views. ESA/Royal Observatory of Belgium

The European Space Agency's Proba-2 satellite does what children are told not to do: stare at the sun. It monitors solar activity and keeps an eye on space weather.

On Sunday, Proba-2 had a particularly memorable day in orbit, witnessing a partial solar eclipse at three different times.

Down here on Earth, we're lucky to see one solar eclipse. We have to get special glasses and organize solar-eclipse parties and hope the weather is good. Proba-2 doesn't have any of those human concerns. It also travels around our planet about 14.5 times each day. The satellite's movement took it in and out of the moon's shadow during its Sunday journey.

The partial eclipses were viewable on Earth for lucky sun watchers in South Africa, Antarctica and along the southern region of the Indian Ocean.

Probab-2 launched in 2009 carrying instruments designed to capture images of the sun. The SWAP imager sees extreme ultraviolet wavelengths that show the swirling activity on the sun's surface. This imager makes for much more dramatic visuals than we get here on Earth with specially filtered eclipse eyewear.

Proba-2's front-row seat for Sunday's event resulted in a fun video showing its three different eclipse experiences. It's almost like watching a video game, with the moon's shadow approaching from different angles, taking large bites out of the sun. There's a bonus close moon-shadow flyby right at the end, as our lunar friend sweeps by the sun's corona.