MAVEN observes Mars moon Phobos in the mid- and far-ultraviolet

February 29, 2016
Phobos as observed by MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph. Orange shows mid-ultraviolet (MUV) sunlight reflected from the surface of Phobos, exposing the moon's irregular shape and many craters. Blue shows far ultraviolet light detected at 121.6 nm, which is scattered off of hydrogen gas in the extended upper atmosphere of Mars. Phobos, observed here at a range of 300km, blocks this light, eclipsing the ultraviolet sky. Credit: CU/LASP and NASA

NASA scientists are closer to solving the mystery of how Mars' moon Phobos formed.

In late November and early December 2015, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission made a series of close approaches to the Martian moon Phobos, collecting data from within 300 miles (500 kilometers) of the moon.

Among the data returned were spectral images of Phobos in the ultraviolet. The images will allow MAVEN scientists to better assess the composition of this enigmatic object, whose origin is unknown.

Comparing MAVEN's images and spectra of the surface of Phobos to similar data from asteroids and meteorites will help planetary scientists understand the moon's origin - whether it is a captured asteroid or was formed in orbit around Mars. The MAVEN data, when fully analyzed, will also help scientists look for organic molecules on the surface. Evidence for such molecules has been reported by previous measurements from the ultraviolet spectrograph on the Mars Express spacecraft.

The orbit of MAVEN sometimes crosses the orbit of Phobos. This image shows the configuration of the two orbits in early December 2015, when MAVEN's Phobos observations were made. Credit: CU/LASP and NASA

The observations were made by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument aboard MAVEN.

MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN project. Partner institutions include Lockheed Martin, the University of California at Berkeley, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Explore further: MAVEN spacecraft returns first Mars observations

Related Stories

Dust cloud, aurora detected around Mars

March 18, 2015

A NASA spacecraft circling Mars has detected a mysterious dust cloud and a vibrant aurora, both unexpected phenomena on Earth's neighboring planet, researchers said Wednesday.

MAVEN studies passing comet and its effects

October 21, 2014

NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere.

Final MAVEN instrument integrated to spacecraft

April 3, 2013

(Phys.org) —An instrument that will measure the composition of Mars' upper atmosphere has been integrated to NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. MAVEN has a scheduled launch date of Nov. 18.

Recommended for you

Star-forming filaments

May 22, 2017

Interstellar molecular clouds are often seen to be elongated and "filamentary" in shape, and come in a wide range of sizes. In molecular clouds, where stars form, the filamentary structure is thought to play an important ...

Tidal tails detected around a distant globular cluster

May 22, 2017

(Phys.org)—Astronomers have found tidal tails around a distant globular cluster known as NGC 7492. The newly discovered features could provide important information about the nature of globular clusters. The findings were ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

wduckss
1 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2016
".. Whether it is a captured asteroid or was formed in orbit around Mars."

The answer is both it and. Captured body continues with further formation (continues to grow).
Azrael
1 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2016
".. Whether it is a captured asteroid or was formed in orbit around Mars."

The answer is both it and. Captured body continues with further formation (continues to grow).


I wonder why we built and designed a multi-million dollar mission when we could have just asked you?
wduckss
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2016
Comments are not answers to questions. I do not remember that you asked me and I did not know that this is your project, sory.
The mission is OK but the platform on which is based is disaster. If the mission to be followed and further that platform (it was an atmosphere of so blown, the water is evaporated, etc.) and the results will be a disaster.
It is not good that we all see the same (this would be a dictatorship).

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.