The Exo Mars spacecraft captured the rare moment when Mars’ small moon Deimos passed in front of Jupiter and its four largest moons. This is what it looked like.
New Delhi,UPDATED: Oct 18 2022 16:27 IST
Deimos passes in front of Jupiter and its moon. (Photo: ESA)
By India Today Web Desk: Before Jupiter and its moons beamed through Earth’s sky, the planetary system was visible from Mars. Jupiter had nearly reached Mars in orbit, and human-sent orbiters took the distant planet and its moon out of orbit in February of this year. The European Space Agency’s Mars Express has beamed back the unique conjunction.
The Exo Mars spacecraft captured the rare moment when Mars’ small moon Deimos passed in front of Jupiter and its four largest moons. The alignment not only helped the probe observe celestial conjunctions, but will also help astronomers obtain a more accurate determination of the orbits of the Martian moons.
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Observing the two Martian moons is critical as they are affected by strong tidal forces on Mars. This causes their orbits to fluctuate constantly, and while Phobos orbits extremely close to Mars at just 6000 km, Deimos moves away from it. The Exo Mars probe has observed Phobos and Deimos to better understand their origin.
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The conjunction was captured by the probe on February 14, 2022 when Deimos crossed. “Such an alignment is extremely unusual, because Deimos must be right in the orbital plane of Jupiter’s moons for the alignment to take place,” according to the European Space Agency.
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The space agency has released a video consisting of a series of 80 High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) images that reveal the bumpy surface of the small and irregularly shaped 15 km wide moon as it passed in front of Jupiter. The animation first shows Deimos passing in front of the icy moon Europa, followed by Ganymede and the gas giant Jupiter, appearing as a large white spot in the center, then disappearing behind Deimos.
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The animation has Deimos moving up and down in the animation through the small rocking movements of Mars Express. ESA is already working on a probe to explore Jupiter and its moons. The Jupiter ICy moons Explorer (Juice) mission will be launched in 2023 and will reach the planet in 2031.
During his mission, Juice will fly past the moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa to study their surface and interior, which are thought to harbor oceans.
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