NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Spots Two Solar Eclipses On The Red Planet


NASA's Mars Curiosity rover caught a glimpse of not only one but two stunning solar eclipses caused by Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.

Last March, the rover captured spectacular images of each of the two moons crossing in front of the sun. The Mast Camera mounted on the rover and equipped with solar filters observed the event. Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego operates the Mastcam instrument.

Curiosity has been probing the Red Planet since 2012 and is regarded as the most capable rover ever sent to Mars.

Solar Eclipse In Mars

Curiosity Rover's official Twitter account @MarsCuriosity posted GIFs of the eclipses.

On March 17 or sol 2,350, the rover snapped images of Deimos passing across the sun. Deimos, which spans 1.5 miles and the smaller of the two moons, was seen as a small black circle passing the sun.

Phobos, on the other hand, was seen crossing the sun in an annular eclipse during the sunset of March 26 or 2,359th sol.

"Eclipses, sunrises and sunsets and weather phenomena all make Mars real to people, as a world both like and unlike what they see outside, not just a subject in a book," said Mark Lemmon, a co-investigator with Curiosity's Mastcam.

Solar eclipses are common sightings on Mars. Rover missions have so far recorded eight observations of Deimos eclipsing the Sun and 40 observations of Phobos.

Through these solar eclipses, scientists are able to fine-tune their understanding and study of each moon's orbit around Mars.

"Those orbits change all the time in response to the gravitational pull of Mars, Jupiter or even each Martian moon pulling on the other," Lemmon said.

Moons Of Mars

Both Deimos and Phobos show the same side to Mars. The two moons appear lumpy, heavily cratered, and covered in dust and loose rocks. These are said to be made of carbon-rich rocks and ice.

These moons are among the smallest in the solar system. They are also close to the Red Planet.

Phobos' proximity to Mars allows it to orbit around the planet three times each Martian day. It has a wide crater covering 6 miles of its surface, making it look like the Star Wars' Death Star from afar.

According to NASA, Phobos is gradually spiraling inward closer to Mars. Each century, it is drawing about 6 feet closer to the planet.

Astronomer Asaph Hall discovered the two moons in 1877.

ⓒ 2018 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Real Time Analytics