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Mars rover eclipse photos to shed light on planet's composition (+video)

Scientists will use these photos to nail down the orbits of Phobos and Deimos precisely, and to determine how much they have changed over the last few years, researchers said. This information, in turn, could yield key insights about the interior of Mars, which remains largely mysterious.

An eclipse is always special -- and this one is captured by Curiosity, as the Martian moon Phobos sails between the Red Planet and the sun...
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Photos of several partial solar eclipses on Mars snapped recently by NASA's Curiosity rover may help scientists better understand the Red Planet's interior structure and composition, researchers say.

The 1-ton Curiosity rover captured Mars' tiny moon Phobos taking a nibble out of the sun's disk last Thursday (Sept. 13). Several days later, it watched additional partial eclipses caused by Phobos and Deimos, the Red Planet's other minuscule satellite (though images from these last two celestial events are not available yet).

Scientists will use these photos to nail down the orbits of Phobos and Deimos precisely, and to determine how much they have changed over the last few years, researchers said. This information, in turn, could yield key insights about the interior of Mars, which remains largely mysterious.

"We can't go inside Mars, but we can use these to tell how much Mars is deformed when the moons go by," Curiosity science team co-investigator Mark Lemmon, of Texas A&M University, told reporters today (Sept. 19). "So we measure the transits very precisely, we get information on Mars' interior structure." [7 Biggest Mysteries of Mars]

Phobos is just 14 miles (22 kilometers) wide on average, and Deimos is even smaller. Many scientists think both satellites are asteroids that were captured by the Red Planet's gravity long ago.

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