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Sci-Tech

NASA InSight lander catches a shadowy eclipse on Mars

It looks like somebody flicked the lights on the Red Planet.

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The InSight lander is studying Mars' vital signs.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's InSight has its Mars plate full with deploying the lander's seismometer and trying to figure out why its heat probe is having problems digging down. But it still had time for some sightseeing when it documented an eclipse. 

The InSight team posted a GIF of the eclipse on Tuesday, saying you might miss it if you blink. "Shadows move and brightness briefly dips when Mars' moon Phobos passes in front of the sun," the team wrote.

The footage is a delight. The lander's shadow crawls slowly across the ground and the light falling over the dusty landscape dims like someone just leaned on a light switch. 

Phobos is the bigger of Mars' two moons, but it's much smaller than Earth's natural satellite. Phobos clocks in at around 17 miles (27 kilometers) in diameter at its widest point. It orbits around the Red Planet three times a day. It's also doomed to fall apart within the next 30 to 50 million years, so enjoy it while you can.

The InSight lander touched down on Mars in November 2018 on a mission to investigate the planet's vital signs by taking its temperature and monitoring for marsquakes. The eclipse viewing is a nice scenic bonus.