NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover captures transit of Martian moon Phobos

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which is currently operating on Mars, has captured the transit of Martian moon Phobos as it passed in front of the Sun on February 8, 2024 (on the 1,056th Martian day of the Perseverance rover mission).

NASA's Perseverance rover captures the transit of Martian moon Phobos on February 8, 2024
NASA’s Perseverance rover captures the transit of Martian moon Phobos on February 8, 2024. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/SSI)

This transit of Phobos was seen in the morning of February 8, 2024, at Jezero crater on Mars, where the Perseverance rover is located.

The Mastcam-Z camera, which is located high on the rover’s mast, captured this image on February 8, 2024, at the local mean solar time of 06:29.

All the scientific instruments of NASA's Perseverance Mars rover
Position of Mastcam-Z camera on Perseverance rover. (Image credit: NASA)

Visit the raw image directory of the Perseverance Mars rover to see all the raw images that the rover captured during the transit of Phobos on February 8, 2024. Use filters to go to February 8, 2024.

Phobos is the largest of Mars’ two moons (the other moon is Deimos). Phobos means fear in Greek.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captures the largest Martian moon, Phobos
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captures the largest Martian moon, Phobos. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

Phobos is an irregular-shaped object with dimensions of 27 by 22 by 18 kilometers. It orbits only 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the Martian surface and takes a little more than 7 hours to orbit Mars.

Phobos takes a maximum of about one minute to cross the disk of the sun due to its rapid orbital motion, so a transit of Phobos lasts only about one minute on Mars.

Due to its very close orbit, the tidal force of Mars is slowly pulling Phobos towards Mars while orbiting around Mars. It’s nearing Mars at a rate of six feet (1.8 meters) every hundred years. At that rate, the moon will either crash into Mars in 50 million years or break up and form a ring around the planet.

Till now, no spacecraft has landed on Phobos. Currently, Japan’s space agency, Jaxa, is planning to launch the MMX (Martian Moons eXploration) mission in 2026. The spacecraft of this mission will explore the two Martian moons, land on the surface of Phobos to collect samples, and bring them back to earth in 2031.

It is still unknown where the Phobos come from. Is it an asteroid captured by Mars? or is the moon created from Mars through collisions with other objects?

We will know the answer for sure when the MMX mission spacecraft returns to Earth with samples.

Related article: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover captures transit of Martian moon Deimos 

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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