NASA’s Curiosity Rover captured Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons, as it rose in the night sky. The video from June 28 was created using 86 images over the course of 27 minutes. The announcement was made via the rover's Twitter.
Curiosity was pointed upward for the event and was able to capture Phobos rising into the night sky shortly after the Martian sunset with its onboard Navigation Camera. The tiny moon, just 14 miles wide, is heavily cratered and orbits very closely to Mars. Phobos was first discovered on Aug. 18, 1877, by Asaph Hall, an American astronomer who made the discovery at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., and is irregularly shaped. The moon’s most distinctive feature is Stickney crater and, with a diameter of 5.6 miles, is almost half the size of Phobos.
The smaller of the two Martian moons, Deimos, has an average radius of 3.9 miles but is not as cratered as Phobos. Many of the physical properties of the he two moons of Mars have been heavily speculated upon, but answers remain elusive for astronomers. Curiosity’s current Mars mission may help researchers better understand the orbits of the Deimos and Phobos as they travel relatively close to Mars.
Curioisty has wrapped up its six-month investigation of the area near its landing site within Mars’ Gale Crater, and NASA has set the rover’s sights on Mount Sharp. Curiosity will travel approximately 5 miles to the base of Mount Sharp, a journey that could take several months for the rover. Over the course of Curiosity’s journey, NASA plans to make some pit stops to investigate interesting Martian features. Mount Sharp has even more rock layers to explore that can lead to new discoveries about the history of life on Mars.
Curiosity’s video of Phobos rising can be viewed below. Phobos travels from the lower right hand of the video to the center and exits toward the top of the video.