NASA Perseverance Rover Shoots Video of Potato-Shaped Moon Eclipsing the Sun

Using its advanced Matcam-Z camera, NASA's Perseverance rover managed to capture incredible footage of Phobos, one of the Mars' Moons, passing in front of the Sun. This is the most zoomed-in video at the highest frame rate ever taken of the potato-shaped Moon eclipsing the star.
NASA Perseverance rover captures incredible video of solar eclipse from Mars 8 photos
NASA Perseverance rover sees Martian Moon cross the face of the SunNASA Perseverance rover sees Martian Moon cross the face of the SunPhobosPhobosNASA Perseverance roverNASA Perseverance roverNASA Perseverance rover
The video was taken at the beginning of the month, on April 2nd. Compared to a solar eclipse seen from Earth that can last a few hours, the one that Perseverance saw on Mars lasted a little bit over 40 seconds. That's because Phobos is about 157 times smaller than our Moon.

And it does have an irregular shape, too, resembling a potato rather than a sphere. Its lumpy appearance is given by the large craters and multiple grooves that cross its surface. NASA's spacecraft has been observing the little Moon for decades. Some of them also captured incredible photos of the odd-looking satellite crossing the Sun's face.

The first time-lapse photos of Phobos during a solar eclipse were taken by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers in 2004. Then, the Curiosity rover returned videos of the phenomenon. Now, Perseverance surpassed scientists' expectations, sending the most zoomed-in video of a Phobos solar eclipse at the highest-frame rate ever.

"I knew it was going to be good, but I didn't expect it to be this amazing," said Rachel Howson of Malin Space Science Systems, one of the team members that operate the Mastcam-Z camera.

This camera acts as the "eyes" of the rover. It is capable of snapping high-quality color images and includes a solar filter that reduces the intensity of the light.

"You can see details in the shape of Phobos' shadow, like ridges and bumps on the moon's landscape," said Mark Lemmon, a planetary astronomer who has orchestrated most of the Phobos observations by Mars rovers. "You can also see sunspots. And it's cool that you can see this eclipse exactly as the rover saw it from Mars."

These findings can help scientists better understand the Phobos' orbit and how its gravity affects the surface of the Red Planet. The Moon's gravity causes minor tidal effects on Mars' interior as it orbits the planet, slightly deforming material in its crust and mantle. And the Martian surface is not the only one that changes. These forces also gradually modify the Phobos' orbit.

As time passes, the Moon is slowly getting closer to the Red Planet (about 6 ft/ 1.8 meters every century). Scientists estimate that Phobos will eventually crash into Mars and meet its end in 50 million years.

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