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Ominous moon of Mars was shown up close for the first time since 1977: it turned out to be not what it was thought to be

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
Deimos flies against the backdrop of Mars. Source: @HHShkMohd

The United Arab Emirates' Hope space probe has come as close as possible to and studied Mars' tiny moon Deimos, revealing that the Red Planet's moon was mistakenly thought to be a captured asteroid. The probe also took one of the most detailed photos of Deimos since 1977.

The data on the observations and photos were released by the Emirates Mars Mission team.

After the Hope spacecraft examined Deimos at a distance of 100 km from the Moon's surface and obtained data on its composition, scientists suggested that the theory that the Mars moons Deimos and Phobos are asteroids trapped in the planet's gravitational pull is completely wrong.

Scientists believe that Deimos is likely to be of planetary origin and was formed as a result of a collision between an unknown object and the Red Planet.

"Our close observations of Deimos so far point to its planetary origin, rather than reflecting the composition of a D-type asteroid as previously thought," said Hessa Al-Matroushi, mission scientist.

The Hope probe has been used to study the Red Planet for the past two years while in an elliptical orbit. In January, however, its orbit was adjusted so that it could see both Mars and Deimos simultaneously.

It then approached Deimos to within 100 km of the surface and flew past the side turned away from Mars, which remains largely unexplored.

Only the NASA Viking mission in 1977 flew so close to Deimos.

The UAE's Mars mission took the most detailed photo of the Deimos satellite.

"The level we've reached is up to 100 kilometres from the surface of Deimos, which is considered close enough to be mapped. Mapping it using other wavelengths and instruments makes it scientifically important. So, it's not just a beautiful image and a fascinating backside, but also a small insight into the composition of the moon itself," explained Sarah Al Amiri, head of the UAE Space Agency, in a comment to The National.

Hope's observations have revealed new details about the composition of Deimos' surface that could help scientists uncover its geological history.

The spacecraft's infrared spectrometer recorded spectral data from almost the entire surface of Deimos. They show variations in surface temperature, describe the physical properties of the surface and reveal the composition of the moon.

The results show that the surface of Deimos is not perfectly homogeneous, but is likely to have fine-grained regolith and roughness.

Its surface also has similarities to the surface of Phobos and indicates that the body is basaltic in origin.

These results support the interpretation that Deimos may have been formed from coalescing debris from Mars, which was probably ejected from a strong collision rather than from a captured D-type carbonaceous asteroid.

What is known about Deimos

Deimos was discovered on 11 August 1877 by the American astronomer Asaph Hall and named after the personification of horror in ancient Greek mythology. The satellite measures 15 by 12 by 11 km and orbits Mars in 30 hours.

Deimos, like Phobos, is slowly approaching the planet's surface with each revolution, and in about 50 million years, they will either be destroyed by its gravity, turning into rings around the Red Planet, or they will fall to the surface.

The side of Deimos facing Mars has been the most studied before - by rovers on the planet's surface and orbiters.

This is due to the fact that most Martian missions operated in orbits much lower than Deimos, which is more than 23,000 kilometres away from the Red Planet, while Phobos is at an altitude of only 6,000 kilometres.

The Mariner 9 and Viking missions in the 1970s, as well as the Indian Mars Orbiter mission in 2014, took pictures of the backside of Deimos, but not as detailed as the images obtained by the Hope spacecraft.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL also reported that Elon Musk's SpaceX showed a video of the first future human colony on Mars.

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