“Nasa’s Curiosity rover continues to impress – sending back more snaps of Mars eclipses and a particular pyramid shaped rock.
A new extraordinary photograph of one of the Red Planet’s two moons as it passes across the sun has emerged.
The photo shows Deimos, Mars’ smaller moon, moving over the sun to create a partial eclipse on Monday.
The first pictures of the Martian mini-eclipses were revealed last weekend when Phobos, the larger of the two moons, just jutted into Mars’s view of the sun.
In that picture Phobos appears to be taking a ‘bite’ out of the sun whereas in the latest photo of Deimos, the smaller moon darkens the sun much more clearly.
Phobos measures 14 miles in width while Deimos has a width of just eight miles but the larger moon seems bigger when seen from Mars because it orbits so much closer.
Phobos orbits 5,800 miles versus 14,580 miles for Deimos, reported NBC.
Phobos and Deimos are closer to Mars than our moon is to Earth, so they shoot across the sky relatively quickly. Phobos takes less than eight hours to circle Mars. Deimos takes about 30 hours to make the trip.
And while Mars may be a little further away from the sun than we are here on Earth, it would still be damaging to look directly into its light from the Red Planet. If Curiosity pointed its regular lens straight at the sun, it could have been destroyed.
So instead the rover used a neutral density filter, cutting down the sun’s intensity by a factor of 1,000, according to NBC News.
Besides the mini-eclipses, Curiosity is concentrating on an intriguing pyramid shaped rock the size of a football.
The rock carries the honour of being the first to be examined by rover’s robotic arm.
It lies about halfway from the rover’s landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg.
The team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs.
Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be used for identifying elements in the rock.
Nasa hopes this will give them a new insight into the structure of the red planet, and also allow cross-checking of the two instruments.
The rock has been named ‘Jake Matijevic’ after a Nasa employee who recently passed away.
Also among the new photos sent back were snaps of Curiosity itself – a view of its U.S. flag medallion, as well as the traditional presidential plaque.”