NASA has recorded stunning, color, time-lapse images of a Mars moon eclipsing the sun. It's an effort that helps astronomers determine when the moon might crash into the planet.
Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z camera system to shoot video of one of Mars' two moons, Phobos, on April 2. NASA says it's the most zoomed-in, highest-frame-rate observation of a Phobos solar eclipse ever taken from the Martian surface.
“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 in San Diego in a NASA statement. She is one of the Mastcam-Z camera operators.
Howson said thumbnail versions arrive before the full size images, so they have an idea of what's coming, "but there is still an element of surprise when you get to see the final product.”
Each time the eclipses are observed, they allow scientists to measure subtle shifts in the moons' orbit over time, according to NASA. But it does more than that.
"As Phobos circles Mars, its gravity exerts small tidal forces on the Red Planet’s interior, slightly deforming rock in the planet’s crust and mantle," NASA said on its website.
The moon is drifting toward the surface and it's expected to crash or fragment into chunks that will impact the planet, but not for tens of millions of years.
Several Mars rovers have observed Phobos crossing in front of the sun over the past 18 years but Curiosity was the first to record video in 2019.