When NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February 2021, it carried a high-definition video camera, complete with a powerful zoom capability. This camera has since provided all sorts of amazing views of the red planet during the last 14 months.
However, earlier this month operators of rover turned its powerful Mastcam-Z camera toward the sky to capture Mars’ potato-shaped moon Phobos transiting across the surface of the Sun. And the result, well, the result is spectacular.
Phobos is much smaller than Earth’s Moon, measuring only about 20 km across, so it does not plunge Mars into darkness. However, with the moon etched against the Sun, the video reveals the lumpy nature of Phobos’ terrain, complete with ridges and small hills. It also showcases sunspots on the surface of our star.
NASA has been capturing planet-bound views of Phobos, and Mars’ even smaller moon Deimos, ever since the landing of the agency’s twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity in 2004. For example, Curiosity captured this transit of Phobos in 2019. But the full-color video of the new solar eclipse is on another level—it is, if you will excuse us, night-and-day different—in terms of detail and color.
“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, one of the Mastcam-Z team members who operates the camera, in a news release. Amazing seems like an understatement.
Listing image by NASA