NASA on Wednesday shared gorgeous footage of a solar eclipse on Mars captured by one of its rovers.
The car-sized robot Perseverance nabbed the video of Phobos, one of the Red Planet’s two moons, from the Jezero crater.
It shows the potato-shaped rock crossing the face of the Sun in an eerily similar fashion to eclipses here on Earth.
The rover’s Mastcam-Z camera took the recording on April 2 to study how the moon’s orbit is changing over time.
It’s the most zoomed-in, highest-frame-rate observation of a Phobos solar eclipse ever taken from the Martian surface, according to Nasa.
“I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this amazing,” said Rachel Howson of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, a member of the Mastcam-Z team.
The eclipse lasted just over 40 seconds – much shorter than a typical solar eclipse involving Earth’s Moon.
That’s because Phobos is roughly 157 times smaller than our rocky satellite. Mars’ other moon, Deimos, is even smaller.
Tracking solar eclipses from Mars can shed light on the shape and makeup of the planet’s outer layers.
“These observations help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface,” Nasa said.
The agency added that those forces “ultimately shape the Red Planet’s crust and mantle.”
It’s not the first time that an eclipse has been captured from the surface of Earth’s dusty neighbour.
Back in 2004, the twin NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity took the first time-lapse photos of Phobos during a solar eclipse.
Curiosity, a rover that’s been exploring Mars since 2012, has recorded a number of Martian eclipses.
But Perseverance, which touched down on the Red Planet last year, has provided the closest images of a Phobos eclipse yet.
Howson said that receiving images from Mastcam-Z continues to be a great source of excitement.
“It feels like a birthday or holiday when they arrive,” she said.
“You know what’s coming, but there is still an element of surprise when you get to see the final product.”
Mark Lemmon, of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said that the quality of the images means the images show the eclipse “exactly as the rover saw it from Mars.”
The $2.4bn Perseverance rover is hunting for signs of ancient life and will collect samples of Martian rock for possible return to Earth.
It’s one of four robots operating on Mars. Three rovers (Nasa’s Curiosity and Perseverance, as well as China’s Zhurong) and one lander (Nasa’s Insight) are currently studying the planet’s surface.
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