May 17, 2022

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Incredible Video of Solar Eclipse on Mars – Captured by Perseverance Rover for NASA

NASA’s Mars rover used the Mastcam-Z camera to film a video of Phobos, one of two Mars moons, blocking the sun. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/SSI

The Mastcam-Z camera recorded a video of Phobos, one of two moons of the red planet, to study how its orbit has changed over time.

NASAperseverance Mars Rover got amazing shots of Phobos, a potato-shaped Mars moon, crossing the face of the sun. These observations could help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls the surface of Mars, eventually forming the red planet’s crust and mantle.

Captured with the Mastcam-Z’s next-generation Perseverance camera on April 2, 2022, the mission’s Sol day 397 or Sol, the eclipse lasted just over 40 seconds — much shorter than a typical solar eclipse involving Earth’s moon. (Phobos is about 157 times smaller than Earth’s moon. Mars’ other moon, Deimos, is even smaller.)

NASA’s Mars rover used the Mastcam-Z camera to film a video of Phobos, one of two Mars moons, blocking the sun. It is the most magnified and highest frame rate observation of the Phobos solar eclipse ever taken from the surface of Mars. credit: NASAJet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech / ASU / MSSS / SSI

These images are the latest in a long history of a NASA spacecraft that captured a solar eclipse on Mars. Back in 2004, NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity twin crafts took over The first time-lapse photos of Phobos during a solar eclipse. Curiosity continued this trend with videos shot with the Mastcam camera system.

But Perseverance, which landed in February 2021, provided the most zoomed-in video of the Phobos solar eclipse to date — and with the highest frame rate ever. That’s thanks to Perseverance’s next-generation Mastcam-Z camera system, a zoomable upgrade to Curiosity’s Mastcam.

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“I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be so amazing,” said Rachel Howson of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, one of the Mastcam-Z team members operating the camera.

Twin Mastcam-Z . cameras

The Mastcam-Z dual cameras, displayed with a pocket knife for scale, are assembled and ready for testing in this image taken at Malin Space Science Systems, in San Diego, California. One of two sets of “eyes” on the “head” or mast of the persevering rover, these cameras can capture high-resolution video, panoramic colors and 3D images of the Martian surface. These are the first cameras to be sent to Mars with built-in zoom capability, able to switch from wide angle to close-up view. Credit: MSSS / ASU

Howson notes that while Perseverance first sends out low-resolution thumbnails that offer a glimpse of upcoming images, the full-resolution copies have stunned her: “It feels like a birthday or holiday when they arrive. You know what’s coming, but there’s still an element of surprise when You see the end product.”

The color also defines this version of the Phobos solar eclipse. Mastcam-Z has a solar filter that works like sunglasses to reduce light intensity. “You can see the details in the form of Phobos’ shadow, like the bumps and bulges on the moon landscape,” said Mark Lemon, a planetary astronomer at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who organized most of the Phobos observations of Mars. Rovers. “You can also see sunspots. It’s great that you can see this eclipse just as the probe saw it from Mars.”

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As Phobos orbits Mars, its gravity exerts small tidal forces on the red planet’s interior, slightly deforming rocks in the planet’s crust and mantle. These forces are also slowly changing Phobos’ orbit. As a result, geophysicists can use these changes to better understand how resilient the interior of Mars is, revealing more about the materials within the crust and mantle.

Scientists already know that Phobos is doomed: the moon is approaching the surface of Mars and is expected to collide with the planet in tens of millions of years. But observations of eclipses from the surface of Mars over the past two decades have also allowed scientists to improve their understanding of Phobos’ slow death spiral.

More about the mission

Astrobiology, especially the search for traces of ancient microbial life, is an important goal of the persistence mission on Mars. The rover will analyze the planet’s past geology and climate, paving the way for future human exploration of Mars, and will be the first mission to collect and store Martian rocks and regolith (fractured rock and dust).

Following NASA’s missions, and in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA), spacecraft will be sent to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for an in-depth investigation.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s moon-to-Mars exploration strategy, which also includes the Artemis Moon missions to help prepare for human exploration of the red planet.

The roving probe was built and operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California for the agency. The Mastcam-Z sensor is managed by Arizona State University in partnership with Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego.

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