Martian Moon Duo
Pioneering Images of Both Martian Moons
The images were acquired with the Super Resolution Channel (SRC) of the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). The camera took 130 images of the moons on 5 November at 9:14 CET over period of 1.5 minutes at intervals of 1s, speeding up to 0.5-s intervals toward the end. The image resolution is 110 m/pixel for Phobos and 240 m/pixel for Deimos -- Deimos was more than twice as far from the camera.
The Super Resolution Channel of the HRSC uses an additional lens, which has a very narrow field of view of just 0.5 degree, providing four times the resolution of the HRSC color stereo channel.
Phobos, the larger of the two moons, orbits closer to the Red Planet, circling it every 7 hours and 39 minutes. It travels faster relative to Mars than the Moon relative to Earth. It was 11,800 km from Mars Express when the images were taken. Deimos was 26,200 km away.
It is not often that both Martian moons are located directly in front of the camera, lined up one behind the other. The chance to image both moons together came on 5 November 2009 when the viewing geometry was especially favorable.
Exploration of Phobos: A Scientific Priority for Mars Express
In addition to producing high-resolution maps of the surface of Mars in color and in 3D, the exploration of Phobos is a scientific priority for the HRSC team. The potato-shaped, 27 × 22 × 18 km moon has already been photographed 127 times by the HRSC, improving our knowledge of the topography of the moon, and providing insight into its origins and development.
The moons of Mars still hold many mysteries. Phobos is made of dark material that does not reflect much light, and some scientists suspect it has a chemical composition similar to that of carbonaceous chondrite asteroids. Phobos may also contain water ice, which could be an important resource for future Mars explorers. As missions like Mars Express continue to observe Phobos and Deimos, scientists hope to reveal more information about these unique satellites of Mars.