From the right place at the right time, it’s a sight unlike any you’ll find on Earth.
In our Solar System, any planet with moons has a chance for a solar eclipse.
They occur whenever a moon passes directly between its planet parent and the Sun.
From planet Earth, they can appear partial, total, or annular.
But on Mars, only partial or annular eclipses occur.
Mars has two moons: Phobos and Deimos.
Both are too small to completely cover the Sun’s disk.
Just like Earth’s moon, Phobos and Deimos cast cone-shaped shadows as they orbit through the Solar System.
However, those cones reach their end before encountering Mars’s surface.
As a result, Martian solar eclipses never block out the Sun’s disk completely.
Smaller and more distant, Deimos appears tiny and dark, slowly passing between the Sun and Mars.
Phobos, however, is larger, closer, and more irregular, creating a spectacular silhouette against the Sun.
From NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover’s Mastcam, humanity learns exactly what Martian solar eclipses look like.
Kevin Gill used that data to construct true-time videos of eclipses for both Martian moons.
The Phobos eclipse occurred on April 4, 2020; Deimos’s occurred on March 28, 2020.
In its ancient past, Mars may have had an innermost, third moon, bringing total eclipses along with it.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.