For over one month now, Mars rover Curiosity has been cruising along the surface of Mars on its way to a Martian mountain named Mount Sharp. The rover’s journey will take several months, and it has been setting driving records along the way. Though the extensive driving has left little room in the rover’s schedule for in-depth examination of Mars, Curiosity has still been put to good use, recently using its cameras to record Mars’ moons passing each other in the night.
This week, NASA announced that Curiosity has once again been used for moon-watching. The rover this month snapped photos of Mars moon Phobos as it passed directly in front of the sun. NASA stated that the new photos are the clearest ever taken of a solar eclipse from the Martian surface. The pictures will help researchers better understand the orbit of Mars’ moons.
“This event occurred near noon at Curiosity’s location, which put Phobos at its closest point to the rover, appearing larger against the sun than it would at other times of day,” said Mark Lemmon, a co-investigator for use of Curiosity’s Mastcam and a planetary scientist at Texas A&M University. “This is the closest to a total eclipse of the sun that you can have from Mars.
“This one is by far the most detailed image of any Martian lunar transit ever taken, and it is especially useful because it is annular. It was even closer to the sun’s center than predicted, so we learned something.”
The released photos are part of a series taken earlier this month. NASA has stated that more photos of the event may be compiled into a movie at a later date.
(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M University)