perseverance skycrane

WTF

Look: NASA Perseverance rover spots something remarkable above the clouds on Mars

Watch Deimos, Mars’ smaller moon, dance across your screens.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

What’s a Mars robot to do with its downtime? The hard-working Perseverance rover takes a break from searching for signs of habitability on Mars every once in a while to just stare at the sky. But in a fortuitous turn of events, something stared back: Deimos, the smaller of the planet’s two moons.

NASA’s Perseverance rover captured the gorgeous footage of the moon sparkling in the sky earlier this year — and NASA did us all a favor and released the video via the rover’s Twitter account.

In the 17-second time-lapse, Deimos appears as a glistening speck — if you can spot it.

Inverse is counting down the 20 science discoveries that made us say “WTF” in 2021. This is #19. See the full list here.

“Sky watching is fun no matter where you are,” the Perseverance team writes on Twitter. “I took this short time lapse movie to watch for clouds, and caught something else: look closely and you’ll see Deimos, one of two moons of Mars.”

“Perseverance was busying capturing images of Mars’ clouds when it caught something else: Deimos,” Inverse’s Passant Rabie wrote in August. “This is the smaller of the two Martian moons and is shaped a bit like a potato.”

Deimos: A brief history

Deimos, named for the Roman god of panic, is one of the smallest moons in the Solar System, measuring a mere seven miles in diameter. That is smaller than the length of Manhattan.

Deimos orbits Mars once every 30 hours and has a sibling moon, Phobos, that’s somewhat closer to Mars. American astronomer Asaph Hall spotted both the moons in 1877.

The moons seem to be made of the same materials, but their origin remains murky. They could be captured asteroids, but other evidence suggests that they could be pieces of Mars kicked up by an impact. Some scenarios even suggest that Deimos formed from a larger former moon.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped this image of Deimos in 2009. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Both Phobos and Deimos are far smaller than our own moon. At seven miles and a hair under four miles in radius, respectively, they’re not much bigger than most asteroids. They also orbit Mars more closely than the Moon orbits Earth. While Earth and the Moon are 238,000 miles apart, Phobos is 3,721 miles and Deimos is 14,580 miles from Mars.

If the moons formed from material from Mars, there’s a chance that evidence of that past life is buried within the moons.

Perseverance has been on Mars since February 18, 2021. It’s there to collect rocks and soil, stowing them away for a return mission that will bring them back to Earth, all in the search for signs of habitability and past microbial life. The mission will last at least one Martian year on the planet, or 687 Earth days, and will also test conditions for potential human exploration.

INVERSE is counting down the 20 science discoveries that made us say “WTF” in 2021. This is #19. Read the original story here.

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