A solar eclipse on Mars? That’s exactly what NASA’s Perseverance rover captured when Phobos, a small potato-shaped moon, crossed the face of the Sun. This observation will help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface, revealing how it may have ultimately shaped the Red Planet’s crust as well as mantle. The footage was captured with Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z camera on April 2 and the event lasted a little over 40 seconds.
This solar eclipse may not have caught the attention of scientists at first because the rover first sends lower-resolution thumbnails that only preview the images to come. When the full-resolution versions were transmitted, the entire team was shocked. Unlike other solar eclipses captured before, this Phobos solar eclipse was shot in color, thanks to the Mastcam-Z’s solar filter, which acts like sunglasses to reduce light intensity. It’s almost as perfectly timed as this person holding a solar eclipse.
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I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this amazing. It feels like a birthday or holiday when they arrive. You know what’s coming, but there is still an element of surprise when you get to see the final product,” said Rachel Howson of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, one of the Mastcam-Z team members who operates the camera.