A lie spreads around Twitter faster than the truth can get its boots on, and the solar eclipse was no exception when this apparently stunning picture showing the eclipse from space emerged.
The image appeared to capture the incredible moment of totality where the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun blocking out all light to the Earth below.
Twitter users claimed that the image had been taken by astronauts on board the International Space Station. Happily the amateur photographers had also managed to get a beautiful shot of the Milky Way in the background.
One Tweet by teacher Jason Elsom was retweeted 12,000 times and favourited by more than 7,000 people.
— Jason Elsom (@JasonElsom) March 20, 2015
But wait? There is something fishy about this picture. If the Moon and Sun were in that alignment then surely nobody on Earth would notice an eclipse was happening.
In fact, in the previous eclipse the Russian space station Mir took an astonishing picture which showed Britain covered in a huge shadow. That is what a picture of the eclipse would look like from the ISS. For astronauts, the Sun would not be eclipsed at all.
Cosmonauts on the Mir Space Station took this picture of the eclipse over Britain in 1999
The picture was in fact created as a work of art for DeviantArt. It was an artist’s interpretation of the eclipse and was never supposed to represent what would actually occur in space
Italian astronaut Sam Cristoforetti eventually Tweeted out this picture which shows a dark shadow over Britain.
Eclipses are such rare events because of the elliptical and angled orbits of both the Earth and the Moon.
Dr Edward Bloomer, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, explained: “The Earth is orbiting around the Sun and sometimes is slightly closer and sometimes further away, and the Earth is also wobbling around on its axis,” he said.
“Likewise the orbit of the Moon around the Earth is elliptical and slightly tilted so it’s rare for the Sun, Earth and Moon to actually line up.
“When they do come into perfect alignment it is called the syzygy effect and when the Moon is closest to Earth you have a total eclipse.”
But eclipses vary depending on where you are in the world. Although Britain will not experience another partial eclipse until 2026 or a total eclipse until 2090, other countries will experience the phenomenon.
Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, said: “The event illustrates why astronomy is the oldest science of them all, reaching back many millennia.
“It makes the cosmos and the universe come alive and shows how human emotions are influenced by skyscape: the sky together with the land and everything around us.
“It will be the last eclipse we experience in the UK for a long time. This eclipse happens close to the spring equinox, during a so called minor lunar standstill and when the Moon is quite close, in its orbit around the Earth.
“Such a special occurrence has strengthened the belief by some that this is going to have a very strong influence on humans, through an invisible metaphysical paranormal force. No such forces exist that would justify these ideas, but what is unmistakable, is that experiencing and watching this cosmic event is out of this world.”