NASA's Curiosity rover has captured two stunning videos of solar eclipses from the surface of Mars, including one that shows the Red Planet's skies darkening dramatically above the 1-ton robot.
Curiosity recorded the two Mars solar eclipse videos on back-to-back days last month, Aug. 19 and Aug. 20. In both cases, Phobos — the larger of Mars' two tiny moons — blotted out much of the sun's disk.
Mission team members created the two eclipse videos, which NASA released Thursday (Sept. 5), by stitching together photos Curiosity snapped with its workhorse Mast Camera — 52 images for the Aug. 19 eclipse and 89 pictures for the event one day later.
Curiosity's video of the Aug. 19 eclipse, however, also includes five frames captured by the car-size rover's rear hazard-avoidance camera. These images, taken 58 seconds apart, show the Martian landscape dimming markedly and then brightening again as Phobos completes its trek across the sun's face.
Phobos is just 14 miles (22 kilometers) wide on average, but it still manages to take a pretty big bite out of the sun during an eclipse seen from Mars. That's because the tiny satellite orbits very close to the Red Planet's surface — just 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) away.
For comparison, Earth's moon is about 2,160 miles (3,476 km) wide but zips around our planet at an average distance of 239,000 miles (384,600 km). That's just the right combination of size and distance to completely cover the sun's face, creating a total solar eclipse here on Earth when the alignment works out right ( via space.com ).