(CTN News) – Mars’ small moon has been captured in the most detailed manner yet by a spacecraft orbiting the planet.
The Amal spacecraft of the United Arab Emirates flew within 62 miles (100 kilometers) of Deimos last month, and close-up images were released on Monday.
As a result of Mars photobombing some of the images,
Amal – Arabic for Hope – received a double benefit. Since almost half a century, no spacecraft has been as close to Deimos as this one.
In addition, the spacecraft observed the little explored far side of the odd-shaped, cratered moon, which measures only 9 miles by 7 miles by 7 miles (15 kilometers by 12 kilometers by 12 kilometers).
There are two moons orbiting Mars, Phobos and Deimos, both of which are nearly twice the size of Phobos and are much better understood due to their proximity to the planet – Phobos orbits Mars at just 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) away, the closest moon to any planet in our solar system.
There are 14,000 miles (23,000 kilometers) between Deimos and Mars in its orbit. Hessa al-Matroushi, the mission’s lead scientist, said the objective of observing Deimos was so compelling due to its proximity to the inner part of the spacecraft’s orbit.
It has been Phobos who has received most of the attention until now – now it is Deimos’ turn! “, she noted in an e-mail.
This new image from Al-Matroushi and other scientists from the UAE Space Agency provides further evidence that Deimos is not an asteroid that got caught in Mars’ orbit eons ago, a theory that has been the leading theory until now.
They claim instead that the moon appears to be of Martian origin – perhaps from the bigger Martian moon or even from Mars itself – suggesting that it may be of Martian origin.
According to al-Matroushi, this year Amal will continue to sweep past Deimos, but it will be a far less close race than the one on March 10.
A NASA spacecraft called Viking 2 came as close to Deimos as 19 miles (30 kilometers) in 1977. A number of other spacecraft have been able to take photographs of Deimos since then, but from much greater distances.
In the summer of 2020, Amal will launch a rocket toward Mars one day before the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first moon landing – on the surface of Earth’s moon, not the moon itself – on July 19, 2020.
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