Photo: Mars Rover Captures ‘Googly Eye’ Lunar Eclipse

Sometimes it seems as if the cosmos possesses a subtle sense of humor. Such is the case in a recent photo snapped by NASA’s Perseverance rover, which shows a Martian lunar eclipse — resembling a Muppet-like googly eye.

The potato-shaped Mars moon of Phobos was spied crossing in front of the Sun on February 8th as it continued on its mission across the Red Planet’s surface. In all, Perseverance captured 68 images of the transit from its vantage point in the Jezero Crater.

The pictures were captured using the rover’s left Mastcam-Z camera, usually used to take panoramic views of the Martian landscape. Scientists will be able to use the data captured to study doomed Phobos, named after the ancient Greek god of fear.

Paul Byrne, Associate Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Science at Washington University, clipped together a 40-second video (in tweet below) of the images to show the eclipse in motion.

Phobos is on a collision course with Mars, nearing the Red Planet at a rate of six feet (1.8 metres) every hundred years. At that rate, the moon will either crash into Mars in 50 million years or break up into a ring.

“Several Mars rovers have observed Phobos crossing in front of the Sun over the past [20] years,” NASA explained in a post following another eclipse in April 2022. “Spirit and Opportunity made the first observations in 2004; Curiosity in 2019 was the first to record video of the event. Each time these eclipses are observed, they allow scientists to measure subtle shifts in Phobos’ orbit over time.”

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image of Mars' moon, Phobos, in 2008.
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image of Mars’ moon, Phobos, in 2008. (Credit: NASA)

Below is video from the 2022 event — in which the “googly eye” is “looking” the other way.

YouTube video

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