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Want daily eclipses? Head to Mars

If you think eclipses were special, think again.

The solar system is a pretty interesting place. Especially because a bunch of big objects are hurtling around in space to get around in each other’s way. In case you’ve ever wondered why there a bunch of empty space out there and then there are so many solid-chunks of matter huddled so close together, you can blame the way stars and planetary formations are created for that. Over time, most of them tend to fall into orbital configurations that can lead to some amazing sights if you’ve positioned yourself correctly.

Our own humble EarthMoon pair is a nice example. The rare-solar solar-eclipses and the not-so rare lunar eclipses are a sight to behold and are awaited by people around the world. Another good example is Mars.

The two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, are comparatively smaller than Earth’s Moon. While the Phobos measures at a bigger 23km across, the smaller Deimos is a mere 12km across. Coming to think of it, perhaps they aren’t capable of blocking much out of the sky at any time. But size isn’t all that matters, y’know.

Both of them orbit very close to Mars. While Phobos rises and sets twice every Martian day of 24hr 40m, Deimos clocks a more leisurely 30 hours or so. Because of the proximity of Phobos to the Martian surface, a partial eclipse like the one seen below happens everyday somewhere on Mars between the latitudes of 70 degrees north and 70 degrees south (since Phobos orbits near the Martian equator).

Mars eclipse

This particular shot was taken by the Curiosity rover in 2013 close to midday. We’ve also been able to see it from orbit with the Viking 1 orbiter.

Mars moon

While these are nowhere close in grandeur to the eclipses we see on Earth, they have their own beauty in the fleeting 30 seconds or so that they last for. And especially, it serves as a great reminder that when it comes to Solar eclipses, we aren’t really a special planet. Let’s be content with having life for now, ok guys?

Source: Scientific American



Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee