Solar eclipse 2015

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On 20 March, the shadow of the Moon crossed the Earth causing a solar eclipse.

Solar eclipse 2015
Date & Time
20 March 2015 08:00–10:55 UTC
Meteosat-8 and 10
Natural Colour RGB, High Resolution Visible (HRV), Visible 0.6 µm channel

Parts of Norway, including the Metop Ground Station in Svalbard, saw a total solar eclipse, while other parts of Europe only had a partial eclipse.

The eclipse could be seen on satellite imagery as a large shadow passing over the Northern Hemisphere.

In Depth

by Jochen Kerkmann, Sancha Lancaster, and Johannes Müller (EUMETSAT) and Ivan Smiljanic (DHMZ)

Figure 2
Figure 2: Meteosat-10 Natural RGB Full disk, 20 March 09:00 UTC

The geostationary location of Meteosat is ideal for following solar eclipses affecting its footprint, and lasting for a few hours, while the shadow of the Moon moves across in an eastward direction (Figure 2).

The solar channels are the most descriptive and dramatic around the umbra darkness. The areas of umbra and penumbra vary with the relative distances Sun-Moon-Earth.


Figure 3: Start of the eclipse over Europe

The animated gif shows the start of the eclipse over Europe seen by Meteosat-10 Natural RGB, 20 March 08:00 to 09:45 UTC.

Watch the animation on YouTube

The eclipse was also be observed by the Hungarian Met Service, using Meteosat-10. This image shows a comparison between AVHRR from 10.25 UTC on 19 March and at 10:04 UTC on 20 March. The shade caused by the eclipse can be clearly seen on the right-hand image.


Figure 4: Rapid Scan over Svalbard

The shadow can also be clearly seen over Svalbard on the Meteosat-9 Visible 0.6 µm Rapid Scan imagery.

Full resolution image
Download animation, 20 March 08:00–11:00 UTC (MP4, 9 MB).

Figure 5
Figure 5: Meteosat-10 infrared animation, 20 March 07:00–10:30 UTC

The infrared channels of Meteosat can follow the cooling of a few degrees, due to the total and partial removal of solar illumination for a fraction of an hour in low-latitude eclipses.

The Meteosat-10 infrared animation, 20 March 07:00–10:30 UTC, clearly shows the cooling of the ground during the eclipse (the coldest areas are blue). In many clear-sky areas temperature dropped by as much as 5 °C.

Usually from the early morning the Earth's surface gets warmer and warmer until it reaches maximum temperature around the time Sun reaches its highest position. From the infrared imagery (Figure 5) it is obvious that this heating process was stopped, or even reversed, during the eclipse.

Full resolution image
Download animation, 20 March 06:00–12:15 UTC (MP4, 15 MB).

Figure 5a
Figure 5a: Surface temperature over time at a fixed pixel

The graphs in figures 5a and 5b clearly show the surface temperature drop during the eclipse.

Figure 5a shows the drop over time at one particular pixel in Southern Germany.

Download the graph

Figure 5b
Figure 5b: Meteogram of temperature during the eclipse. Credit: Arthur de Smet

Figure 5b shows the meteogram from the Darmstadt area in Germany. The thermogram data shows that the temperature stayed more or less constant for about an hour, during a morning period when the temperature had been rising fast.

Download the full resolution meteograms, showing the whole week.

Figure 6
Figure 6: Meteosat-10 HRV, 20 March 07:30 UTC

Importance of satellite imagery

EUMETSAT imagery also proved to be very useful prior to the eclipse, to assess the possible impact of the solar eclipse on the stability of the German electrical power networks.

A solar eclipse (even when only partial) can cause instability in the networks because of the sudden reduction (at the beginning of the eclipse) and later increase (at the end) of electric power from photovaltaik (PV) installations. Weather, in particular cloudiness, plays a crucial role in this.

To mitigate Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD) developed different scenarios, depending on the predicted cloud cover situation, to help the network companies guarantee stability in this difficult situation. In the two days running up to the eclipse, the forecast models predicted a mixed situation in Germany, with north-west Germany cloudy and central and southern Germany cloud free. The actual situation, shown in the HRV image (Figure 6) shows that the exact border ran along the Taunus mountains, with Frankfurt and Darmstadt cloud free and Cologne and Koblenz cloudy.

Images from the ground

Figure 1


Watching the eclipse at EUMETSAT's HQ in Darmstadt

Staff at EUMETSAT, like many offices around Europe, gathered to watch the eclipse, using telescopes, specially adapted cameras and even homemade pinhole cameras.

In the gallery below you can also see images of the eclipse taken by colleagues in the UK and at Svalbard.

The pictures in the animation were taken by the equipment shown in the attached picture. The movie consists of 1541 single frames taken at 5 second intervals. The wobbling is due to manually aligning and cropping the original images, which was needed because of the non correct position of the telescope. Download animation

(AVI, 2 MB)


  • 20 March Totality at Svalbard. Credit: Torgeir Prytz
  • 20 March Start of the eclipse in Edinburgh. Credit: Debbie Richards
  • 20 March Eclipse maximum in Edinburgh. Credit: Debbie Richards
  • 20 March Early phase of the eclipse in Darmstadt. Credit: Carsten Schaefer
  • 20 March Eclipse maximum in Darmstadt. Credit: Carsten Schaefer
  • 20 March Total eclipse in Svalbard. Credit: Kjetil Slettnes

See also:

YouTube animation of eclipse imagery (Michael Sachweh)

Previous eclipse case studies

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