The following photo voltaic eclipse to cross North America is quick approaching, however over on Mars, the Pink Planet already skilled one among its personal celestial shadow occasions this yr.
On February 8, the asteroid-sized Martian moon Phobos crossed in entrance of the solar above Jezero Crater—the world simply so occurring to host NASA’s Perseverance rover. As Phobos continued throughout the sky, Percy’s left Mastcam-Z digicam angled away from its normal panorama vista subject material in the direction of the satellite tv for pc, snapping a couple of dozen pictures for challenge coordinators again at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The pictures showcase a markedly totally different full lunar eclipse than those Earth receives each 2.5 or so years. Given each Phobos’ measurement and form, the moon doesn’t totally cowl the solar—as a substitute, the 17x14x11 mile misshapen hunk of rock blocks solely a small portion of the star because it continues alongside its path. The outcome arguably resembles extra googly eye than awe-inspiring cosmic calendar prevalence, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a reasonably spectacular vantage level.
Phobos and its smaller sibling moon Deimos had been found in 1877 by US astronomer Asaph Corridor, and are respectively named after the Greek phrases for “Worry” and “Dread.” The origins of each satellites aren’t wholly understood, though astronomers theorize them to be both asteroids or particles leftover from the photo voltaic system’s formation that occurred round 4.5 billion years in the past.
[Related: The Mars Express just got up close and personal with Phobos.]
Whereas the Earth’s moon continues to inch away from its planetary pull at a fee of roughly 1.5 inches per yr, Phobos is definitely being drawn in the direction of Mars—about six ft nearer each century. Whereas that makes for a relatively gradual descent, it does nonetheless imply the moon will ultimately both crash into Mars, or break it up into 1000’s of fragments to kind a planetary ring like Saturn’s. No want to fret, although, since that grand finale isn’t anticipated for one more 50 million years. Within the meantime, Phobos will proceed orbiting Mars at a fee of thrice per day, whereas the slower Deimos completes its journey each 30 hours.
Perseverance’s lunar eclipse seize, whereas unbelievable by itself, naturally fails to seize a lot element of the moon’s pockmarked floor. Fortunately, the European House Company’s Mars Categorical caught a better look again in 2022, when the satellite tv for pc got here inside simply 52 miles of the moon to snap its personal pictures.