Phobos slips past Jupiter

The Mars Express spacecraft observed an alignment of Jupiter and the Martian moon Phobos. Captured images now appear as an animation of this rare event.

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.

Three frames from the series of 104 taken by Mars Express during the Phobos-Jupiter conjunction on June 1, 2011. Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

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.

The trajectories of Phobos and Mars Express at the time of the conjunction with Jupiter on June 1, 2011. The letter ‘S’ denotes the south pole of Mars. Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

The configuration of Phobos and Mars Express at the time of the conjunction with Jupiter on June 1, 2011. Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

One frame from the June 1, 2011 Phobos-Jupiter conjunction taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express. Red-blue stereoscopic glasses are required to see the 3D effect. Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

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.

Via ESA

Thomas Duxbury on Mars Express spacecraft views of Phobos

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