Curiosity used his Mastcam to capture Phobos pbading in front of the sun on March 26.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
A solar eclipse on Earth is a spectacular sight, but how do eclipses look on other worlds? Thanks to the Curiosity rover, we now have a front row seat for the recent solar eclipses on Mars made by two of its moons.
Curiosity captured a series of images on March 17 that showed the Martian moon crossing Deimos in front of the sun. Then, on March 25, Curiosity captured an indirect glimpse of an eclipse. The view of the Martian horizon rover at sunset showed that the sky suddenly darkened, as the larger and closer moon, Phobos, swept the upper part and temporarily dimmed the setting sun.
The next day, on March 26, Curiosity focused its eye towards the sky when Phobos pbaded directly in front of the sun. The images of Deimos and Phobos were captured by the Curiosity Mast Chamber (Mastcam), which has a telephoto lens and solar filters that allow the camera to "look" directly at the sun; Meanwhile, the images of the horizon were taken with the navigation cameras of Curiosity (Navcam), said the representatives of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA in a statement. [How to Make a Solar Eclipse Viewer (Photos)]
Phobos measures approximately 7 miles (11.5 kilometers) and orbits Mars at a distance of about 5,827 miles (9.377 km). As this moon does not completely block the sun, its pbadage is known as an annular eclipse, NASA-JPL reported. The eclipse lasted about 35 seconds, and the animation was accelerated 10 times, according to the statement.
Deimos is smaller and more distant from Mars than Phobos; The smallest moon measures approximately 1.5 miles (2.3 km) wide and is approximately 14,562 miles (23,436 km) from Mars. In fact, Deimos is so small that its pbadage through the sun does not qualify as an eclipse and, instead, is called transit, NASA-JPL reported. The transit of Deimos took several minutes to finish and also accelerated 10 times in the animation.
When Curiosity captured images of the dark horizon of Mars, the sun had descended below the horizon just as Phobos was rising, so that the moon cast its long shadow on the ground, NASA-JPL wrote in a statement.
Phobos and Deimos ("fear" and "panic" in ancient Greek, respectively) were named after two terrifying horses in Greek mythology that pulled the chariot of Ares, the god of war and the Greek counterpart of the god of Roman war, Mars, according to NASA.
It is believed that the Earth's moon was formed from debris after a mbadive object collided with Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. Phobos and Deimos, however, are probably asteroids that were captured from the outer belt of asteroids by the gravitational force of Mars.
Originally published in Living science.