Mars Express acquires sharpest images of martian moon Phobos August 9, 2008Posted by jtintle in Planets.
Tags: DLR Institute of Planetary Research, ESA, ESOC, Gerhard Neukum, German Aerospace Center(DLR), HRSC, Mars, Mars Express, Moon, Phobos
Mars Express closed in on the intriguing martian moon Phobos at 6:50 CEST on 23 July, flying past at 2.96 km/s, only 100 km from the centre of the moon. The ESA spacecraft’s fly-bys of the moon have returned its most detailed full-disc images ever, also in 3-D, using the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board.
Phobos is what scientists call a ‘small irregular body’. Measuring 27 km × 22 km × 19 km, it is one of the least reflective objects in the Solar System, thought to be a captured asteroid or a remnant of the material that formed the planets.
Phobos in 3-D
The best full-disc images of Phobos ever
The HRSC images, which are still under processing, form a bounty for scientists studying Phobos. They are a result of observations carried out over several close fly-bys of the martian moon, performed over the past three weeks. At their best, the pictures have a resolution of 3.7 m/pixel and are taken in five channels to obtain images in 3-D and to perform analyses of the physical properties of the surface.
The images obtained by several other spacecraft so far have either been of a lower resolution, or not available in 3D and have not covered the entire disc of Phobos. This is also the first time that portions of the far-side of the moon have been imaged in such high resolution (Phobos always faces Mars on the same side).
Potential Phobos-Grunt landing site
In observing Phobos, Mars Express benefits from its highly elliptical orbit which takes it from a closest distance of 270 km from the planet to a maximum of 10 000 km (from the centre of Mars), crossing the 6000 km orbit of the martian moon. Mars Express imaged the far-side of Phobos (with respect to Mars) for the first time after NASA’s Viking mission in the 1970s, by flying outside the spacecraft’s orbit around Mars.
Phobos-Grunt (roughly translated as Phobos soil), a Russian sample-return mission, is due for launch in 2009. It is expected to land on the far-side of Phobos at a region between 5° south to 5° north, and 230° west to 235° west.
Notes for editors:
The Principal Investigator (PI) for the HRSC experiment on ESA’s Mars Express is Prof. Dr Gerhard Neukum, who also designed the camera technically. The HRSC science team consists of 45 Co-Investigators from 32 institutions located in 10 nations. The camera was developed at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) under the PI in cooperation with industrial partners (EADS Astrium, Lewicki Microelectronic GmbH and Jena-Optronik GmbH). It is operated through ESA/ESOC by the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, where systematic processing of the image data is carried out. The scenes shown here were processed by the PI group at the Institute for Geosciences of the Freie Universitaet Berlin in cooperation with the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin.