A Crescent Moon in the Martian Sky

Article Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

Mars’ moon Phobos is captured in a daytime image by Curiosity (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

A raw image taken on September 21 by Curiosity’s right Mastcam shows a daytime view of the Martian sky with a crescent-lit Phobos in the frame… barely visible, yes, but most certainly there. Very cool!

The image above is a crop of the original, contrast-enhanced and sharpened to bring out as much detail as possible.

The 13-km-wide Phobos has been spotted several times before by Mars rovers, most recently during a solar transit on September 13 (sol 37) but I’m not sure if it’s ever been clearly captured on camera during the day before (i.e., not passing in front of the Sun.) If not, this will be a first!

See the latest news from the Curiosity mission here.

Added 9/28: According to Universe Today publisher Fraser Cain, this is “the most dramatic space picture of the year”… whether you agree or not, hear what he had to say on this and other recent news during the September 27 episode of the Weekly Space Hangout.

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13 Responses

  1. Grimbold says:

    They should take a picture of it during a full moon, ie. at night and when it is fully lit by the Sun.

    • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says:

      That would not be possible because of Phobos’ low, equatorial orbit (mean altitude 5,981 km) which would always place it in Mars’ shadow when Phobos is in opposition to the Sun.

      • magnus.nyborg says:

        You are correct. However, technically you can shoot a, practically, full-phobos image around the time of sunrise or sunset, if phobos at that time is directly 180 degrees opposed to the sun measured from the position of the imaging. That would not be at night time ofc, and phobos would be very close to the horison.

      • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says:

        I would like to know who’s the bozo that voted us down!

      • kkt says:

        You don’t think Phobos is going to change its orbit because of a vote on Universe Today? 🙂

  2. Navneeth says:

    Enough of the touristy shots already! Where are the science observations? (Only half-kidding.)

  3. JonHanford says:

    As mentioned in the article, Mars rovers have previously imaged Phobos from the surface of the planet. Back in 2005 the rover Spirit captured a number of fascinating images of Phobos and Deimos in the night sky of Mars:

    This would be the first daytime image of a moon from a rover (excluding eclipses) that I’m aware of.

  4. space_sailor says:

    true. Read this: What are results of this measurments?

  5. space_sailor says:

    true. Read this: What are results of these measuremants?

  6. squidgeny says:

    These are the science observations! Imaging absolutely everything that can possibly be imaged is Step One of any competent exploration mission. You never know what might turn up in one of those images.

  7. Will Nourse says:

    Have to disagree about it being most dramatic – I think the one of Curiosity in descent is far more striking 😉

  8. bugspotter24 says:

    Why are all of NASA’s crucial pictures sh*te?
    Grainy black and white out of focus indistinguishable sh*te, JUST like the old days, eh?
    I mean, honestly, do they not have cameras decent enough that can compensate for “outdoor conditions”, whatever they may be?
    We’ve got pictures of the Titanic, of Three Mile Island, BEAUTIFUL pictures of the assembly coming off Cape Canaveral rockets, pictures of FARAWAY galaxies for god sakes, and THIS is the best they can give us “direct” from Mars, WHILE giving us colorful images of red rocks (yay…) right in front of the damn (DARPA-created, it ain’t) “sophisticated” crawly-rolly machine?
    Honestly, are we still in pocket-calculator 1969, or what?
    Any wonder why no one believes these clowns anymore? I mean, LOOK at this.
    What a joke.

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