Solar Eclipse From Mars Captured in Stunning Nasa Footage

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has captured stunning footage of one of Mars' moons as it crosses between the red planet and the sun creating a solar eclipse.

The video shows the Martian moon Phobos, the innermost and larger of the two moons, as seen by Perseverance's next-generation Mastcam-Z camera on April 2, which was the 397th Martian day of the robot's mission on the Red Planet.

The eclipse is shorter than those seen on Earth involving our planet's moon, lasting just a touch over 40 seconds. While NASA spacecraft have a long and successful history of catching eclipses as seen from Mars, this is the most detailed footage of such an event with the highest frame rate to date.

At just 16 miles across, about 157 times smaller than Earth's moon, Phobos doesn't completely cover the Sun, so its eclipse is considered an annular eclipse.

Because Perseverance initially sends lower-resolution thumbnails that offer a sneak preview of images yet to be sent back to Earth, the Mastcam-Z team gets a glimpse of footage from the rover yet to come. But, even they were surprised by the quality of this full-resolution footage.

Mastcam-Z team member Rachel Howson of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego said in a NASA press release: "I knew it was going to be good, but I didn't expect it to be this amazing.

"It feels like a birthday or holiday when they arrive. You know what's coming, but there is still an element of surprise when you get to see the final product."

Eclipse on Mars
An screenshot taken from footage captured by the Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z. The viseo is the most detailed footage of the Martian moon Phobos crossing the face of the sun yet to be captured. JPL-Caltech/NASA

The quality of the footage is thanks to the Mastcam-Z camera system which is a zoomable upgrade on the Curiosity Rover's Mastcam, which captured a less detailed video of Phobos eclipsing the sun in 2019. Earlier that year, on March 17, Curiosity had also captured an eclipse by Deimos, the smaller of Mars' two moons.

The footage from Perseverance can also be distinguished by the fact that it is in color, unlike the prior Curiosity footage. This is possible thanks to a solar filter on the Mastcam-Z that reduces light intensity, almost like sunglasses.

Mark Lemmon, planetary astronomer with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, has been integral to most of the Phobos observations by Mars rovers to date. He said: "You can see details in the shape of Phobos' shadow, like ridges and bumps on the moon's landscape.

"You can also see sunspots. And it's cool that you can see this eclipse exactly as the rover saw it from Mars."

This means that in addition to being a striking remainder of humanity's ingenuity and our increasing mastery of space research, astronomers and planetary scientists could use this footage and follow-up video to better understand the moon's orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface.

This in turn could reveal how the tidal forces between the Red Planet and its moons ultimately shaped the Martian crust and mantle.