Fear a-Flying

Phobos orbits Mars at an altitude of about 5,830 miles (9377 km); Mars Express image

Part of a bulk data release from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter (available at, posted on by user peter59) this wonderful image shows Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons, in orbit against the backdrop of the planet’s limb. The dark, irregularly-shaped moon is shown in amazing clarity, giving a very nice sense of depth to the image. (Mars’ surface features appear slightly wavy due to motion of the spacecraft’s camera, which gathers data line-by-line rather than as a single full-frame. Also I rotated the image 90º counter-clockwise from the original.)

Mars Express last performed a close flyby of Phobos on March 7, 2010, passing by the moon at a distance of about 170 miles (278 km) and returning some great images. Previously believed to be a captured asteroid, it’s now thought that Phobos may actually be a chunk of Mars itself, reconstituted bits of the surface that were blown into orbit by a large meteorite impact…a theory strengthened by the discovery of phyllosilicates in Phobos’ composition, a substance known to exist in abundance on Mars’ surface – but not in asteroids.

The Russian space program is planning a mission to Phobos next year with their Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which will land on its surface and return a sample back to Earth.

Thanks to peter59 (Peter Masek) for sharing these images from the release, which looks to hold a lot more goodies…read more at The Planetary Society’s blog!

Image: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum).


About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on November 26, 2010, in Mars and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. What an amazing shot! Phobos looks as though it is right up close to Mars, almost as if, if you were standing on a high mountain, you touch it.


  2. Ralph Ciampaglia

    Awesome I wish I could be up there Close and Personnal That would be Amazing


  1. Pingback: Following a Moon Shadow « Lights in the Dark

  2. Pingback: Worlds Apart: Planet and Moon Align » WeNewsIt

  3. Pingback: Curiosity captura un eclipse en Marte | Pero a mí me gusta

%d bloggers like this: