NASA’s Perseverance rover captured a lucky cosmic event on April 2: Mars’ distinctly potato-shaped moon Phobos eclipsing the Sun. This new video comes fresh off the heels of NASA’s InSight lander capturing a wistful Martian sunrise.
In a blog post about the images, NASA explained: “These observations can help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface, ultimately shaping the Red Planet’s crust and mantle.”
Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z camera took the shots, which make up the most zoomed-in and highest frame rate Martian eclipse video, according to NASA. Jim Bell, principal investigator for Perseverance, described Mastcam-Z as the “main eyes” of the rover, able to take video and 3D pictures.
“I knew [the footage] was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this amazing,” said Rachel Howson, one of the camera operators located at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, in the NASA release.
Phobos is one of Mars’ two moons and has an average radius of 11 kilometers. To put that in perspective, Earth’s Moon has an average radius of 1,737 kilometers. Phobos is characterised by a series of streaks across its surface as well as a 9-kilometre-wide crater called Stickney. In 50 million years, Phobos will either break up into a ring or smash into Mars, NASA says. Japan is planning a mission to Phobos in the mid-2020s, during which a probe would collect rock samples and eventually bring them to Earth.
Perseverance rover is currently gearing up to begin science operations at the delta of Jezero Crater, a place where scientists believe flowing water — and maybe microbial life — once existed. The big hope is to find microfossils among the rocks and sediment there.