Eclipsing the sun, from Mars

NASA rover catches silhouette of Martian moon

martian eclipse

MARTIAN ECLIPSE  These three images show Mars' moon Phobos passing in front of the sun from the perspective of NASA's rover Curiosity.

JPL-Caltech/NASA, Malin Space Science Systems, Texas A&M Univ.

When Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons, passed in front of the sun on August 20, NASA’s Curiosity rover was watching.

Scientists carefully controlled Curiosity to snap eclipse images three seconds apart. They will use the pictures to calculate the orbit of the Martian moon with even greater precision.

The eclipse occurred at midday, when Phobos was directly overhead from Curiosity’s viewpoint. That meant the moon’s silhouette was near its largest against the sun — about as close to a total solar eclipse as is possible on the Red Planet.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

More Stories from Science News on Planetary Science