Wow! Perseverance rover captures gorgeous video of solar eclipse on Mars

The tiny Mars moon Phobos looms large on the sun's face in dramatic eclipse footage captured by NASA's Perseverance rover.

The life-seeking Perseverance took a break April 2 from its quest to reach an ancient Red Planet river delta to observe the minuscule moon passing across the sun.

"These observations can help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface, ultimately shaping the Red Planet’s crust and mantle," officials with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages Perseverance's mission,

"I knew it was going to be good, but I didn't expect it to be this amazing," Rachel Howson of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, one of the Mastcam-Z team members, said in the same statement.

Phobos, which is about 157 times smaller than Earth's moon, is one of Mars' two natural satellites. 

The other, Deimos, is even smaller than Phobos. Scientists think the two lumpy bodies may be former asteroids that were captured by Mars' gravity. 

Phobos is in a death spiral over Mars and will likely crash into the Red Planet's surface in a few tens of millions of years, researchers say.

Roughly 20 years of eclipse observations like this, taken from rovers on Mars, have refined the understanding of that moon's slowly collapsing orbit.

Perseverance is on a years-long quest to hunt for signs of ancient life on Mars, and to collect and cache dozens of samples that may hold evidence of Red Planet organisms.

 NASA and the European Space Agency plan to return those samples to Earth via a sample-return campaign over the next decade or so.

Accompanying Perseverance on its journeys is an intrepid helicopter, Ingenuity. The little chopper has exceeded its planned flight manifest fivefold, achieving 25 airborne sorties to date.

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