World Bulletin / News Desk
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, dispatched to determine if the planet most like Earth in the solar system could have supported microbial life, has taken on a second job - moonlighting as an astronomer.
Last week, Curiosity outfitted its high-resolution camera with protective filters and took pictures of the sun as Phobos, one of Mars' two small moons, sailed by.
It was a tricky shoot. Phobos and its sister moon Deimos are closer to Mars than our moon is to Earth, so they shoot across the sky relatively quickly. Phobos takes less than eight hours to circle Mars. Deimos takes about 30 hours to make the trip.
Last Thursday, the moons started to cross paths.
"Phobos grazed the edge of the sun, as seen from Curiosity. We had basically a partial eclipse," astronomer Mark Lemmon, with Texas A&M University, told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday.
The rover took more than 600 images with its left and right cameras, about 100 of which captured some part of the eclipse. Not all the pictures have been radioed back to Earth.
Curiosity has a partner in the project. From the other side of the planet, the rover Opportunity was expected to try to shoot the eclipse on Wednesday.
Aside from pretty pictures, the images should help scientists learn more about Mars' internal structure. Like Earth's moon, Mars' moons have some gravitational pull that slightly change the planet's shape.
"That in turn changes the moons' orbits -- Phobos is slowing down, Deimos is speeding up, like our moon," Lemmon said. "This is something that happens very slowly over time."
In 10 million to 15 million years, Phobos is expected to be so close to Mars that it will be torn apart by the planet's gravity.
The moons' passages by the sun, captured by NASA's rovers, help scientists nail down their orbits and determine how fast they are changing. That information in turn is used to assess how much Mars is deformed as the moons go by.
Curiosity resumed skywatching on Tuesday, when both moons passed overhead.
"This was a really hard thing to do. The timing was very precise," Lemmon said.
The next Martian eclipses will take place in about 11 months. By then, Curiosity should be in a better vantage point.
The rover's eventual science target is a three-mile- (5 km) high mound of sediment rising from the floor of the Gale Crater impact basin where Curiosity landed six weeks ago.
Scientists had to abseil and scubadive to get into the caves, some of which are around 50 metres deep (165 feet). They found wall paintings and bone fragments left by the indigenous Kawesqar people that could help date the caves.
Asteroids have broken apart many times over the eons, but never before have scientists been able to witness it.
Should these ships become a reality, a total of 44% of expenses could be cut from operating cargo ships, according to industry consultant Moore Stephens LLP.
Earthuquake lights sometimes appear in the sky before an earthquake takes place and are often mistaken for UFOs.
Remains of the new species were unearthed in Portugal by an amateur fossil hunter in 2003 in the rock cliffs of Lourinhã
The females of an Asian swallowtail butterfly species known as the Common Mormon often mimic the appearance of another species of butterfly that is toxic for predators to eat
Scientists from Turkey designed 'the smart infrared cameras' to deal with dense fog related flight delays which cause thousands of flights to be postponed or cancelled each year.
Artificial muscles can bear 117 times more than natural muscles.
Scientific works by students aged between 11 and 15 in invention and design categories will take part in the olympiad.
GCHQ collected images from the webcam chats of more than 1.8 million users globally in a six-month period in 2008 alone
NASA'a Kelper telescope has discovered 715 new planets outside of our solar system.
The vault, which was designed to withstand all disasters, was opened in 2008 in order to store an adequate amount of seeds which would enable the human species to revive lost crops in the event of global disaster.
A cybersecurity firm said that it uncovered stolen credentials from some 360 million accounts that are available for sale on cyber black markets
NASA says about 100 tons of material from space enter Earth's atmosphere every day. The moon, with no protective atmosphere, is fair game for celestial pot-shots
"When or if the NSA blurs the line between its defensive and intelligence-gathering roles and exploits a position of trust, that's a problem," head of security pioneer RSA said
Co-founder of WhatsApp announces that telephone calls can be made via WhatsApp.