On Aug. 17, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity took some time out from its long drive to Aeolis Mons (the 5 kilometer-high Mount Sharp) and moonlighted as an astronomer. Aiming its Mast Camera (MastCam) at the sun, the one-ton wheeled robot watched the largest Martian moon Phobos pass in front. Technically known as an annular eclipse — from Curiosity’s perspective, Phobos didn’t totally block all the sun’s light — this event had a measurable effect on the landscape surrounding the rover.
In a recently released NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) video (shown above), frames from the Phobos eclipse and photos from one of Curiosity’s Hazard Avoidance Cameras (HazCam) were combined to show the region of Gale Crater that Curiosity is exploring go dark. The shadow of the Phobos eclipse created a rather dramatic dip in daylight.
Until humans get to experience an extraterrestrial eclipse, we’ll have to live vicariously through Curiosity’s robotic eyes.
Video credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech