Sunday, December 2, 2007

MOONS OF MARS (Phobos and Deimos)

These two images show Mars two small moons, Phobos and Deimos, as seen from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's low orbit around Mars. Both images were taken while the spacecraft was over Mars right side, with the spacecraft turned off its normal nadir-viewing geometry to glimpse the moons. The image of Phobos, shown at the top, was taken at 0119 UTC on October 23 (9:19 p.m. EDT on Oct. 22), and shows features as small as 400 meters (1,320 feet) across. The image of Deimos, shown at the bottom, was taken at 2016 UTC (12:16 p.m. EDT) on June 7, 2007, and shows features as small as 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) across. Phobos and Deimos are about 21 and 12 kilometers (13.0 and 7.5 miles) in diameter and orbit Mars with periods of 7 hours, 39.2 minutes and 1 day, 6 hours, 17.9 minutes respectively. Because Phobos orbits Mars in a shorter time than Mars' 24 hour, 37.4-minute rotational period, to an observer on Mars' surface it would appear to rise in the west and set in the east. From Mars' surface, Phobos appears about one-third the diameter of the Moon from Earth, whereas Deimos appears as a bright star.