Hubble shoots movie of Phobos

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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.



  • LocalFluff

    As a besserwisser pretend-to-be I would’ve remarked that it is the orbit of Phobos, not its rotation, that is being observed. But since it is tidally locked it is the same thing, so you get away with it this time.

    The rotation of Mars and the orbit of Phobos doesn’t look to add up in the animation.

  • eddie willers

    The article states:

    Rising in the Martian west, it runs three laps around the Red Planet in the course of one Martian day

    If it can do that, is it tidally locked?

    The fate of Behind The Black hangs on the answer.

  • eddie willers: You ask a really good question. According to this story, it is tidally locked, which does not surprise me.

  • LocalFluff

    eddie willers
    Phobos orbits Mars close enough to beat beat lazy Mars’ rotation. If you think a second about hoe things turn, which is dizzying. The nearer the faster. It really goes the other way to Deimos, apparently as seen from Mars’ surface. Two moons going in opposite directions across the red sky. I wonder what an astrologer would say about that omen. And it is spiraling inwards. In only ten million years or so, rubble pile Phobos will have come so deep into Mars’ gravity well that it gets ripped apart by the curved spacetime and forms a ring, raining down asteroids on poor Mars.

  • Dick Eagleson


    All the more reason, then, to get there, grind up Phobos, turn it into luxury condos and move them all out to a safer orbital distance using SEP and some of that abundant Martian argon.

  • Edward

    eddie willers asked: “If it can do that, is it tidally locked?

    Tidally locked means that it keeps the same face toward the planet, or outward, as the article put it. The Moon is tidally locked, despite taking a month to go around the Earth.
    tidal locking results in one hemisphere of the revolving object constantly facing its partner

    (Whew. The fate of Behind The Black is secure once again.)

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