Photographs taken by ESA's Mars Express spacecraft show the surface of Mars moon Phobos in greater detail than ever before. The images offer for the first time an unblurred continuous view of the moon's surface at the highest resolution.
The 10 images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) onboard the spacecraft, show the Mars-facing side of the moon, enabling the body's shape, topography, colour, 'regolith' light-scattering properties, and rotational and orbital states to be determined. The regolith is a small-grained material resulting from multiple impacts on the moon's surface.
Phobos possesses a 'groove network', a regularly spaced network of channels, seen in great detail in the new images. Scientists are unsure whether the grooves existed before the large cratering events, and exist deep within Phobos, or came after the cratering events and were superimposed on them. The images may help answer this question.
The Mars Express spacecraft passes near Phobos periodically for about one hour, during which time it trains its camera on the moon's surface. It will grab more snaps of Phobos over the coming months.
Mars Express is also charged with studying the orbit of Phobos, to hopefully determine whether the moon is truly in a 'death spiral' which will result in its eventual destruction. ®