International Space Station passes across spotless sun in stunning NASA image

It orbits our planet around 16 times every day, and now the International Space Station has been photographed passing in front of the sun.

The incredible image was snapped by photographer Rainee Colacurcio, and is featured as NASA ’s astronomy photo of the day.

NASA explained: “That’s no sunspot. It’s the International Space Station (ISS) caught passing in front of the Sun.

“Sunspots, individually, have a dark central umbra, a lighter surrounding penumbra, and no solar panels. By contrast, the ISS is a complex and multi-spired mechanism, one of the largest and most sophisticated machines ever created by humanity.

“Also, sunspots occur on the Sun, whereas the ISS orbits the Earth.”

While you might think that transits of the sun would be fairly unusual for the ISS, surprisingly this isn’t the case.

NASA added: “Transiting the Sun is not very unusual for the ISS, which orbits the Earth about every 90 minutes, but getting one’s timing and equipment just right for a great image is rare.”

Aside from the ISS, the photo doesn’t show any sunspots – dark patches on the surface of the sun caused by strong magnetic field lines coming up from within the Sun.

NASA explained: “Sunspots have been rare on the sun since the dawn of the current Solar Minimum, a period of low solar activity.

“For reasons not yet fully understood, the number of sunspots occurring during both the previous and current solar minima have been unusually low.”

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