The Curiosity rover recorded two solar eclipses on Mars
The Mars-based Curiosity rover has recorded two solar eclipses. First, the rover’s cameras captured how Deimos, the smaller of Mars’ moons, flew in front of our star’s disk. A week later, the Sun’s rays were covered by the Red Planet’s second moon, Phobos.
The Curiosity rover, which has been on Mars since 2012, is equipped with solar filters installed on its Mastcam camera, które allow it to look directly at the Sun. Curiosity has put them to good use over the past few weeks, sending back to Earth images of solar eclipses by Phobos and Deimos, two moons of Mars.
The first eclipse took place on March 17. The rover has observed the tiny moon Deimos, whichóry flew against the background of the solar disk. Deimos is only 12.4 kilometers in diameter. Seen from Mars, it is so small in cfóin conjunction with the Sun’s disk, that the event would qualify more as a transit rather than an eclipse.
The second eclipse took place on March 26 and was more spectacular. Phobos is 22.5 kilometers in diameter. It is much larger than Deimos and its orbit is closer to the Red Planet, but it still did not completely obscure the Sun.
Solar eclipses have been repeatedly observed from Mars. Curiosity rover and its predecessors – Spirit and Opportunity – have already observed a total of 40 eclipses by Phobos and 8 transitsóat Deimos.
In addition to the spectacular nature of eclipses, these observations also have a scientific purpose. They allow researchers to precisely determine the orbits of natural satellitesóin Mars. Until recently, the orbits of Phobos and Deimos were not so well understood. When the Spirit and Opportunity rovers began observing solar eclipses it turned out that Deimos was 40 kilometers awayóin from the position in whichóre expected to see it by scientists.
– These observations make it possible to determine the particularówhich every orbit – said Mark Lemmon of the Texas A&M University. – These orbits change all the time in response to the gravitational pull of Mars, Jupiter or even the interactions of each of the Martian moonsów – added.