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Look at Phobos go!

The oblong Martian moon was captured making a solar transit by NASA’s Perseverance rover on April 2, in footage released earlier this week.

The radical video provides a clear shot of our radiant orange star before the silhouette of a potato.

“I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this amazing,” gushed Rachel Howson, rover Mastcam-Z operator at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, Calif., in a NASA news release. On Twitter, NASA called it “truly fascinating.”

It zipped past our Sun in a mere 40 seconds — far shorter than what we on Earth are used to seeing in an eclipse event involving our moon. That’s because Phobos is about 157 times smaller; meanwhile, its sister satellite, Deimos, is even more minuscule at a scale reduced by 280 times.

Also unlike our moon, Phobos is circling in on collapse, in what will ultimately come as a crash landing on Mars during the next 50 million years or so. With its orbit currently situated just 3,700 miles from its parent — for comparison, Earth’s moon is 238,900 miles away — NASA scientists believe the tiny rock has been slowly eroded by the gravitational tug of its host planet, giving Phobos its signature lumpy shape.

And it’s leaving its mark on Mars, in the meantime.

“These observations can help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface, ultimately shaping the Red Planet’s crust and mantle,” the space agency told Storyful.

This is some of the most detailed imagery we now have of Phobos’ eclipse activity, which they began monitoring nearly 20 years ago, beginning with NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and later Curiosity, in 2019.

In early 2021, they launched Perseverance with the ultimate goal of collecting Martian dirt to analyze for ancient microbial life.

“You can see details in the shape of Phobos’ shadow, like ridges and bumps on the moon’s landscape,” said Mark Lemmon, planetary astronomer with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, for NASA.gov. “You can also see sunspots. And it’s cool that you can see this eclipse exactly as the rover saw it from Mars.” 

Source: NYPOST

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