Mars’ moon showed its pockmarked face in an unprecedented close-up.
Deimos, one of Mars’ small moons, was imaged by the Hope Mars mission from 60 miles (100 kilometers), the closest look yet. Sparkling new images were released on Monday (April 24) as the community strives to learn more about this intriguing little world.
“These images and observations represent an important step forward in our knowledge of Deimos, its atmosphere, composition and origins, and what this means for our understanding of Mars more broadly,” the UAE Space Agency said in a statement.
For example, spacecraft observations of the formation of Deimos indicate that the moon came from Mars itself, another step forward in resolving a long-running debate about its origins.
Related: Were the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos born from another shattered moon?
How Deimos (and another small Martian moon, Phobos) became a mystery since their discovery in 1877. Numerous spacecraft have photographed Deimos since NASA’s Mariner 9 satellite in 1971, but always from afar. From a distance of more than 60 miles (100 km), it was difficult to determine the moon’s composition. Phobos, though depicted in close-up, was similarly enigmatic.
Previous studies suggested that the compositions of the moons could be similar to asteroids (space rocks) or dwarf planets, being composed of carbonaceous chondrites, primitive meteorites are believed to be the remains of the original building blocks of planets. The moons are also potato-shaped and small, much like asteroids, indicating that Mars may have grabbed them when it strayed near the Red Planet.
But this theory isn’t a jab, as (for example) Deimos’ orbit is nearly circular and the Moon is traveling in a way that suggests it previously slowed against the Martian atmosphere. Many theories of formation have been put forward, such as that they originated from Mars, from rubble, or even from the collision of small bodies.
The new data was obtained from the UAE mission from the Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer. He notes that both Phobos and Mars are “closer to basaltic Mars, instrument scientist Christopher Edwards said, than a D-type asteroid such as the Tagish Lake meteorite is often used as a counterpoint to the spectral properties of Phobos and Deimos.” In the same statement.
The spacecraft, also known as the Emirates Mars Mission, began to be flown by Deimos in late January during its operational phase. High resolution images were obtained as of March. The mission is expected to continue to fly Deimos periodically through 2023.
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (Opens in a new tab)? (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab) or Facebook (Opens in a new tab).
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