A Crescent Moon in the Martian Sky

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.

13 Replies to “A Crescent Moon in the Martian Sky”

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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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