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Curiosity Captures Two Moons Passing In Martian Night

posted 16 Aug 2013, 10:04 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 16 Aug 2013, 10:05 ]

NASA's Mars Rover , Curiosity, has captured images of the Martian moon Phobos passing in front of the smaller moon, Deimos. The images were captured by Curiosity on August 1.

 IN SPACE (AUGUST 1, 2013) (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ. ) -  The 41 images of Phobos passing Deimos were captured on August 1. They are the first images from Mars showing one moon eclipsing the other, captured by the robot's two-camera Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument. Deimos, the smaller of Mars' two moons is seen near the centre of the frame before being obscured by Phobos flying by.

According to Mastcam co-investigator, Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, the observations are scientifically significant.

"The ultimate goal is to improve orbit knowledge enough that we can improve the measurement of the tides Phobos raises on the Martian solid surface, giving knowledge of the Martian interior," he said. "We may also get data good enough to detect density variations within Phobos and to determine if Deimos' orbit is systematically changing."

The orbit of Phobos is very slowly getting closer to Mars. The orbit of Deimos may be slowly getting farther from the planet.

NASA scientists say Phobos has a diameter less than one percent the diameter of Earth's moon, but that it orbits much closer to Mars than our moon's distance from Earth. As seen from the surface of Mars, Phobos looks about half as wide as what Earth's moon looks like to viewers on Earth.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover's 10 science instruments to investigate the environmental history within Gale Crater, a location where the project has found that conditions were long ago favorable for microbial life.

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates Curiosity's Mastcam. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Navigation Camera and the rover

The Rover landed on Mars on August 6, 2012 after launching from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011.