Viewing crescent Mars

October 2, 2012
Crescent Mars
Crescent Mars. Credit: ESA

(Phys.org)—The sight of the crescent Moon hanging in the sky above Earth is a familiar one, but this image taken by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft as it passed by the Red Planet in February 2007 captures the rare view of a skinny slice of Mars.
Many delicate crescent views of planets and moons in our Solar System have been provided by past flyby missions, but this was the first time Mars had been imaged in this way.

The flyby was the second of four planetary gravity assists needed to slingshot Rosetta to its final destination, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where it will arrive in summer 2014. The three other gravity boosts were provided by our home planet, Earth.

During the Mars flyby, Rosetta's imaging team attempted to capture the nightglow in the planet's atmosphere. These weak emissions of light are produced in the when nitrogen and combine and release energy.

Although the white crescent of Mars appears overexposed, a tiny piece of the planet's atmosphere can be seen glowing in the 11 o'clock position.

Internal reflections within the camera's optics are present as the red and fuzzy blue haloes.

Rosetta is now in deep-space hibernation. It will wake up on 20 January 2014 and rendezvous with its comet four months later.

Rosetta will be the first mission ever to orbit a comet's nucleus and land a probe on its surface.

It will also be the first to fly alongside a comet as it heads towards the , watching how a comet is transformed by the warmth of the Sun.

Since comets are considered the primitive building blocks of the Solar System, Rosetta will help scientists to learn more about their role in the evolution of our local cosmic neighbourhood.

Explore further: ESA's comet chaser to fly by Earth

Related Stories

ESA's comet chaser to fly by Earth

February 23, 2005

ESA's comet-chaser Rosetta will make a fly-by of planet Earth on 4 March 2005, and sky watchers should be able to see it with telescopes or binoculars if the sky is clear! Rosetta is approaching Earth from an area in the ...

UK scientists set to glimpse Rosetta as it swings by Earth

March 3, 2005

One year into its twelve year journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission will make a “close” flyby of Earth on Friday 4th March. UK scientists involved in the mission ...

Boosting the accuracy of Rosetta's Earth approach

October 19, 2007

Yesterday, 18 October at 18:06 CEST, the thrusters of ESA’s comet chaser, Rosetta, were fired in a planned, 42-second trajectory correction manoeuvre designed to 'fine tune' the spacecraft's approach to Earth. Rosetta is ...

Rosetta's final Earth boost

November 4, 2009

ESA's comet chaser Rosetta will swing by Earth for the last time on 13 November to pick up energy and begin the final leg of its 10-year journey to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. ESA's European Space Operations Centre will ...

Mission to land on a comet

February 3, 2012

Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft is en route to intercept a comet– and to make history. In 2014, Rosetta will enter orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkoand land a probe on it, two firsts.

Recommended for you

Science on the surface of a comet

July 31, 2015

Complex molecules that could be key building blocks of life, the daily rise and fall of temperature, and an assessment of the surface properties and internal structure of the comet are just some of the highlights of the first ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.