The European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft Mars Express performed a special maneuver on June 1, 2011 to observe an unusual alignment of Jupiter and the Martian moon Phobos. Imagery from this rare event now appears in animation form.
At the moment when Mars Express, Phobos and Jupiter aligned on June 1, 2011, there was a distance of 7,076 miles (11,389 km) between the spacecraft and Phobos, and a further 328.7 million miles (529 million km) to Jupiter. The High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express focused on Jupiter for the conjunction, ensuring that the planet remained static in the frame. The operation returned a total of 104 images over a period of 68 seconds, all of them taken using the camera’s super-resolution channel.
The Department of Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing at the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Freie Universität Berlin put the images together to make the animated video.
By knowing the exact moment when Jupiter passed behind Phobos, astronomers can improve our understanding of the Martian moon’s orbital position.
Click on the images below for a bigger view.
Bottom line: The ESA Mars Express observed an unusual alignment of Jupiter and the Martian moon Phobos on June 1, 2011. The rare imagery now appears as an animation, thanks to the Department of Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing at the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Freie Universität Berlin.
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