A spacecraft around Mars has sent back the most detailed photos yet of the red planet’s little moon, reports AP. The United Arab Emirates’ Amal spacecraft flew within 62 miles (100 kilometres) of Deimos last month and the close-up shots were released Monday.
Amal — Arabic for Hope — got a two-for-one when Mars photobombed some of the images. It was the closest a spacecraft has been to Deimos in almost a half-century. The spacecraft also observed the little explored far side of the odd-shaped, cratered moon, just 9 miles by 7 miles by 7 miles (15 kilometres by 12 kilometres by 12 kilometres).
Deimos’ orbit around Mars stretches 14,000 miles (23,000 kilometres) out. That’s close to the inner part of the spacecraft’s orbit — “which is what made observing Deimos such a compelling idea,” said the mission’s lead scientist Hessa al-Matroushi.
Al-Matroushi and other scientists with the UAE Space Agency said these new images indicate Deimos is not an asteroid that got captured in Mars’ orbit eons ago, the leading theory until now. Instead, they say the the moon appears to be of Martian origin — perhaps from the bigger Martian moon or from Mars itself.
The findings were presented Monday at the European Geosciences Union’s general assembly in Vienna.