Worlds Apart: Planet and Moon Align

Article written: 19 Jun , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

Here’s a cool animation showing Mars’ little moon Phobos passing in front of distant Jupiter from the viewpoint of ESA’s Mars Express orbiter:

The conjunction event occurred on June 1.

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Only 21 km (13 miles) across at the widest, the irregularly-shaped Phobos may have been created by a large impact on Mars in its distant past, a chunk of the planet’s crust thrown into orbit. Mars Express most recently performed a close flyby of Phobos back on January 9, passing it at a distance of only 100 km (62 miles).

What’s really amazing to think about is the distances between these two worlds – about 529 million km! But those kinds of distances are no hindrance to vision out in space, especially when the farther object is a giant planet like Jupiter.

The images were taken with Mars Express’ High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), which was kept centered on Jupiter during the conjunction. A total of 104 images were taken over a span of 68 seconds to create the animation.

“By knowing the exact moment when Jupiter passed behind Phobos, the observation will help to verify and even improve our knowledge of the orbital position of the martian moon.”

– ESA

Read the news release on the ESA Space Science site here.

All images shown here were processed at the Department of Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing at the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Freie Universität Berlin. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

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2 Responses

  1. Very cool! That is the type of thing conspiracy theorists would scream FAKE about (ala moon landing) if it was a bigger event in the mainstream media. My brain melts when I thing about the math behind that simple little series of photographs. DGJ Mars Express!

  2. Member
    Anonymous says

    Does this remind anyone else of the flying head in the movie Zardos?

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