NASA’s Mars Odyssey probe began its mission almost 19 years ago. It became the longest continually active spacecraft that orbits Mars.
Such a fantastic tour of duty means it’s seen lots of odd things we can’t easily spot from our planet. A great example is a colorful composite of the Martian moon Phobos, recently captured by Mars Odyssey. The six candy-like circular shapes might look like delicious sweets, but they’re only different glimpses of the incredible Phobos. Here is what you need to know.
Orbs That Resemble Candies and Other Intriguing Features Spotted on Phobos
The six candy-like orbs spotted on the Martian moon Phobos by Mars Odyssey, are actually different glimpses of the moon. The probe captured the color variations, too, using its infrared camera, dubbed THEMIS (the Thermal Emission Imaging System), unveiling different temperatures.
THEMIS shares some pieces of Greek mythology with the Martian moon and its lunar companion, Deimos. The infrared camera captured Phobos at its coldest in blue when Mars fully shadowed it during a lunar eclipse, and in bright red, when Phobos was under full sunlight.
“It’s a kind of temperature bullseye – warmest in the middle and gradually cooler moving out,” detailed Jeffrey Plaut, the Mars Odyssey project scientist.
Every Phobos observation is realized from a slightly different time of day or angle, offering a new type of data. Ongoing research of the Martian moon and its surface features stands to unveils whether the small moon – a radius of around 11 kilometers – is an asteroid that got dragged into the gravitational lure of the Red Planet or just a piece of the planet.
Many questions remain, and NASA’s Mars Odyssey’s ever-watchful eyes could be scientists’ only hope of providing the answers. Unfortunately, we don’t have forever, but we may soon be able to understand Phobos better thanks to Mars Odyssey’s work.
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