NASA’s Perseverance Mars spacecraft has given us a peek at an interesting patch of the sun not yet visible from Earth.
Perseverance images the sun daily using the Mastcam-Z camera system to measure the amount of dust in the Martian atmosphere. The effort captured a large sunspot moving across the solar disk late last week and over the weekend, SpaceWeather.com reported.
“Because Mars orbits the far side of the sun, Perseverance can see nearby sunspots more than a week before we do,” SpaceWeather.com wrote in an article. Another highlight of sunspot images. “Consider this your one-week warning: A big sunspot is coming.”
RelatedThe Perseverance rover captures a stunning video of a solar eclipse on Mars
Sunspots are dark, relatively cool regions where the Sun’s magnetic field is particularly strong.
These spots typically serve as launch pads for solar flares (bursts of high-energy radiation) and coronal mass ejections (CMEs; massive eruptions of solar plasma), and for this reason they are also known as “active regions”.
Solar flares and CMEs hitting Earth can affect satellite navigation and disrupt power grids, among other things, so tracking sunspot motion is more of an academic interest.
Sungazing is a side light to perseverance of course. The rover’s main tasks are to search for evidence of life on Mars and collect dozens of samples, which will be returned to Earth sometime in the next decade through a joint NASA-ESA mission campaign (provided funding for the endeavor comes in).
Perseverance explores the floor of Jezero Crater on Mars, which had a large lake and river delta billions of years ago. The car-sized rover landed inside the 28-mile (45-kilometer) wide crater in February 2021 with Ingenuity’s small helicopter.
Ingenuity was designed as a showcase for technology, but it has transcended expectations to become something much more. She now serves as a scout for the Perseverance Team and has a whopping 55 flights to the Red Planet under her belt.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”