NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has managed to capture spectacular videos of Phobos, the potato-shaped moon of Mars, passing the face of the sun. These findings will help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and why gravity tries to pull on the red planet, eventually forming the red planet’s crust and mantle.
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The images are the most striking in a long series of NASA spacecraft images of solar eclipses on Mars. During a solar eclipse in 2004, the two NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity eventually captured the first time-lapse images of Phobos.
Really fascinating. I zoomed in with my Mastcam-Z camera on a Phobos eclipse. This detailed video could help scientists in my team better understand the Martian moon’s orbit and how gravity affects Mars’ interior, including its crust and mantle. pic.twitter.com/q45HwKwLIS
— NASA’s persistence Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) Apr 20, 2022
Perseverance, which arrived in February 2021, offered one of the most zoomed-in clips of a Phobos eclipse to date — and at the fastest frame rate ever. “I knew it was going to be really good, but I didn’t really expect it to be this great,” said Rachel Howson from San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems.
Phobos’ gravity causes slight tidal forces on Mars’ inner surface, slightly deforming the rock in the planet’s crust and mantle as it orbits the planet. These forces also gradually alter Phobos’ orbit. In fact, geophysicists can use the changes to better understand how flexible Mars’ interior is, by discovering more about materials contained within the crust and mantle.
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Scientists now know that Phobos is doomed to failure: The moon is approaching the surface of Mars and will collide with the planet in tens of millions of years.
Cover Image: NASA