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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Curiosity is copying Cassini's tricks!

Posted By Emily Lakdawalla

03-08-2013 10:59 CDT

Topics: pretty pictures, animation, Phobos, Deimos, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)

Take a look at this amazing photo, captured by Curiosity from the surface of Mars on sol 351 (August 1, 2013). It is unmistakably Phobos. And take my word for it when I tell you that the other bright blob is Deimos. Curiosity caught them both in one shot!

Phobos and Deimos from Curiosity, sol 351 (raw image)


Phobos and Deimos from Curiosity, sol 351 (raw image)

But that's not all. This is the only full-resolution image of both moons that I've seen on the raw image website yet. But there are thumbnails, lots of them, showing that Curiosity got video. Video! Here's an animation of those thumbnails that should whet your appetite for what will be coming once the data finally squeeze through the pipeline to Earth. Deimos is almost lost in the JPEG compression artifacts, but you can see it at the center, and watch Phobos actually cross right in front of it. I've elnarged it by a factor of three without resampling -- these are all the pixels we have right now, but be patient; we'll get more.

Thumbnail animation of Phobos transiting Deimos

That is going to be SO COOL. Curiosity has taken a page out of Cassini's book! Cassini takes mutual event movies all the time, or at least it does when it is orbiting in the plane of Saturn's rings so can see the moons cross each other. These animations are fun to watch, but they also serve a useful scientific purpose: the timing of the crossing and the positions of the two moons in the same frame provide extremely tight constraints on where they are in their orbits. Geometry and science!

See other posts from August 2013


Read more blog entries about: pretty pictures, animation, Phobos, Deimos, Curiosity (Mars Science Laboratory)


zizban: 08/03/2013 11:17 CDT

Would Phobos' phases be visible from the surface?

Bob Ware: 08/03/2013 11:59 CDT

zizban - Yes and look at the still image above and you see both are in a half phase. Stickney is in shadow giving the terminator a bulge. Emily - Are they able to grab any star field only shots? It would e really cool to see a star field from an alien planet surface!

Bob Ware: 08/03/2013 12:02 CDT

Oh yes, these Martian asteroids ("moons") make for a really cool image also! Thanks!!

Dylan McCall: 08/03/2013 02:08 CDT

Wow, I love the full night sky pictures from the MSL raw images site. Is it just me, or is this the first time Curiosity has done this? (Because I'm finding it very exciting). I don't suppose any of those dots happen to be other planets? :)

Alfred Bortz: 08/03/2013 04:14 CDT

Also, Phobos moves from West to East since its orbital period is less than a Sol. It noticeably goes through its phases as it crosses the sky. Deimos moves from East to West but much slower.

Lazlo Long: 08/03/2013 06:16 CDT

that's one busy little robot.

Bob Ware: 08/03/2013 07:26 CDT

AH! I found star field images! So cool!! (same Sol)

Jeff Thompson: 08/06/2013 10:28 CDT

This reminds me of an article in Sky and Telescope about the Spirit MER doing something very similar. I think there may have even been an occultation, as there apparently is here. In either case, it is a privilege just to be alive at a time when we are sending spacecraft to explore other planets!

Martin Rundkvist: 08/07/2013 12:39 CDT

Is that real time? Or speeded up? Amazing if our moon zipped across the sky like that. Catastrophic tides!

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