Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. The two potato-shaped objects have puzzled planetary scientists for a long time. What is their origin? Are they captured asteroids or were they once part of the Red Planet, like the Moon was part of ours? Now, the closest images ever taken of Deimos appear to indicate the latter.
The Emirates Mars Mission's Hope Probe has been studying the Red Planet for several years when last summer it undertook a course correction to slightly change its target of focus from Mars to Deimos, the planet’s smaller and outermost moon. Several flybys took the probe as close to Deimos as 100 kilometers (61 miles), the closest humans have ever been to the small rocky body.
This very close encounter allowed the team to snap the most detailed image of Deimos yet, looking stunning above the Red Planet itself. It even managed to capture the far side of the tiny moon, which has not been explored in great detail before. The moon has a mean radius of about 6.2 kilometers (3.85 miles) and goes around Mars every 30.3 hours or so.
This truly stunning image is just the cherry on top of the observations. Astronomers used all three instruments – the ultraviolet and infrared spectrometers, together with the imager – to capture incredible details of the properties of this little moon, including information on the composition, morphology, and more.
The first results of the flybys will be presented tomorrow at the European Geophysical Union conference, but some indication of the results and the first stunning image have been teased by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and currently Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates.