The Martian moon Deimos was spotted by the Mars Express spacecraft as it passed in front of Jupiter and its moons.
The Mars Express probe, operated by the European Space Agency, is located near Mars but far from Jupiter. That didn’t stop it from taking a fascinating set of pictures that appeared to show Jupiter and the gas giant’s four largest moons crossing over the Martian moon Deimos in the foreground.
This week, the ESA made a video depicting the lumpy small moon of Mars passing in front of Jupiter on February 14, 2022. The scene has a Pac-Man-like appearance as Deimos glides across the screen, hiding the tiny dots of Jupiter and the far-off moons.
Remember that Mars Express is 463 million miles (745 million kilometres) away from Jupiter to get an idea of how bizarre this is. According to the ESA, that is five times the distance between Earth and the sun. The spacecraft is on a journey to Mars to research the atmosphere and climate of the planet and look for evidence of water.
The High Resolution Stereo Camera of the spaceship provided 80 photos for the video. “Deimos seems to move up and down in the animation due to the minor swaying movements of Mars Express when it spins to get the HRSC camera into position,” the ESA said in an explanation of the “shaky-cam” appearance.
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The moon Deimos passes in front of Europa and Ganymede before moving on to pass over Jupiter (the large white spot in the film), Io, and Callisto. Although Jupiter has many moons, those are the four biggest. Deimos and Phobos are the only moons that Mars possesses in comparison.
The larger moon Phobos passed in front of Deimos in a shorter sequence shot in March, which the ESA used to follow up the Jupiter film.
Soon, more thorough research will be done on the moons shown in the videos. The Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) project is being developed by Japan’s space agency JAXA, and the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) mission is being led by the European Space Agency. Additionally, NASA is preparing its Europa Clipper spacecraft to explore the ice moon as a potential home for life.
The images from Mars Express are intriguing to observe, and they are assisting researchers in determining the orbits of the Martian moons with greater accuracy. When MMX arrives to begin its scientific work, the data it has will be helpful. Because Mars is brighter than these small bodies, it is challenging to determine their orbits from Earth, according to the ESA. Thank goodness Mars Express is here to assist.