Tag Archives: Phobos

Mars Odyssey makes its first observations of Phobos

Sixteen years after entering Mars orbit Mars Odyssey finally made its first observations of the Martian moon Phobos last week.

Since Odyssey began orbiting the Red Planet in 2001, THEMIS has provided compositional and thermal-properties information from all over Mars, but never before imaged either Martian moon. The Sept. 29 observation was completed to validate that the spacecraft could safely do so, as the start of a possible series of observations of Phobos and Deimos in coming months.

In normal operating mode, Odyssey keeps the THEMIS camera pointed straight down as the spacecraft orbits Mars. In 2014, the spacecraft team at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver; and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; and the THEMIS team at Arizona State University, Tempe, developed procedures to rotate the spacecraft for upward-looking imaging of a comet passing near Mars. The teams have adapted those procedures for imaging the Martian moons.

The data from this particular observation is less significant than the fact that the spacecraft can now do it. Expect some new results about the Martian moons in the coming months.

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Hubble shoots movie of Phobos

Phobos over Mars

Cool image time! By taking a quick series of thirteen images, the Hubble Space Telescope was able to shoot a short movie of the rotation of Phobos above the surface of Mars. The gif animation on the right is the smaller of the two animations released today. Be sure and view the full resolution version.

What is even cooler is that movie was apparently unplanned. From the link:

Over the course of 22 minutes, Hubble took 13 separate exposures, allowing astronomers to create a time-lapse video showing the diminutive moon’s orbital path. The Hubble observations were intended to photograph Mars, and the moon’s cameo appearance was a bonus.

In terms of science this movie has a somewhat limited value. In terms of space engineering it is triumph, and once again illustrates the unprecedented value of having an optical telescope in space. Woe to us all when Hubble finally dies, as we have no plans to replace it.

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ExoMars’ Trace Gas Orbiter images Phobos

As part of its checkout, Europe’s ExoMars’ Trace Gas Orbiter has taken test images of the Martian moon Phobos.

The camera imaged the moon on 26 November from a distance of 7700 km, during the closest part of the spacecraft’s orbit around Mars. TGO’s elliptical orbit currently takes it to within 230–310 km of the surface at its closest point and around 98 000 km at its furthest every 4.2 days. A colour composite has been created from several individual images taken through several filters. The camera’s filters are optimised to reveal differences in mineralogical composition, seen as ‘bluer’ or ‘redder’ colours in the processed image. An anaglyph created from a stereo pair of images captured is also presented, and can be viewed using red–blue 3D glasses.

The images were done to test the spacecraft’s operation, and have apparently shown that it is functioning well.

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Mars Express will do an extremely close flyby of the martian moon Phobos on December 29.

Mars Express will do an extremely close flyby of the martian moon Phobos on December 29.

Late this month, ESA’s Mars Express will make the closest flyby yet of the Red Planet’s largest moon Phobos, skimming past at only 45 km [28 miles] above its surface. The flyby on 29 December will be so close and fast that Mars Express will not be able to take any images, but instead it will yield the most accurate details yet of the moon’s gravitational field and, in turn, provide new details of its internal structure.

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Russia heads for Mars

Russia heads for Mars: a detailed look at the Phobos/Grunt sample return mission, set to launch on November 8.

I really wish the Russians good luck with this project. Not only would it herald their return to planetary science since the fall of the Soviet Union, success here would break their long string of failures to the red planet. Though their unmanned planetary program had some remarkable achievements during the Soviet era, of the 19 missions they flew to Mars in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, all were failures, producing almost no useful data.

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