Al-Amal snaps first close-up images of Martian moon Deimos

Deimos with Mars in the background
Click for full movie.

During its first close fly-by of the Martian moon Deimos on March 10, 2023, the United Arab Emirates Mars orbiter Al-Amal (“Hope” in English) obtained the first close-up images of the moon.

The picture to the right show Deimos with Mars in the background. The full set of images, compiled into a movie, can be seen by clicking on the image.

The results were outlined by science lead Hessa Al Matroushi at a conference today.

During the 10 March fly-by, the mission team used all three onboard instruments to take readings spanning from the infrared to the extreme ultraviolet. The relatively flat spectrum the scientists saw is suggestive of the type of material seen on Mars’s surface, rather than the carbon-rich rock often found in asteroids, suggesting that Deimos was formed from the same material the planet. “If there were carbon or organics, we would see spikes in specific wavelengths,” she says.

These results probably put an end to the theory that Mars’ moons came from the asteroid belt. Instead, they either formed when the planet did, or were thrown free and settled into orbit after a very large impact, such as the ones that created either the Hellas or Argyre basins, both of which happened several billion years ago and thus provide ample time for the space environment to smooth the moon’s surface and add some craters.

UAE engineers shift Al-Amal’s orbit to do fly-bys of Mars moon Deimos

Engineers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday revealed that they are in the process of changing the orbit of their Al-Amal Mars orbiter so that it will be able to do several close fly-bys of the Martian moon Deimos.

Two of the three required manoeuvres have already been made, allowing it to reach a new orbit between 20,000km and 43,000km with a 25-degree incline towards the planet. “Previously, we didn’t have any reason to move the orbit,” Ms Al Matroushi said. “But now we’re exploring a new adventure and science mission.”

Engineers are using the probe’s three main science instruments to capture images and data of the moon. These include an exploration imager ― a high-resolution camera ― to photograph the moon, and the infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers to measure its temperature and observe its thermophysical properties, including its regolith, or dust.

The first Deimos fly-by took place in late January, and as the probe moves to its closest approach to the moon, it will take high-resolution images.

Eventually Al-Amal will dip as close as 60 miles of Deimos.

Curiosity films partial solar eclipses by both Phobos and Deimos

Phobos partial eclipse of Sun

Last week Curiosity successfully captured partial solar eclipses by both Phobos and Deimos as the Martian moons crossed the face of the Sun.

The movie on the right shows Phobos eclipsing the Sun. The speed is ten times faster than real time.

The press release can be seen here. It notes how these observations, of which 8 in total have been made since Curiosity arrived on Mars, have helped pin down the orbits of both moons.