On April 24, 2019, NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter captured a brand new thermal picture of Phobos, the bigger of Mars’ two moons. Every shade within the full-moon picture represents a temperature vary detected by Odyssey’s Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) digicam.
“This new picture is a type of temperature bullseye — warmest within the center and regularly cooler transferring out,” stated Odyssey mission scientist Dr. Jeffrey Plaut, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“Every Phobos remark is finished from a barely totally different angle or time of day, offering a brand new type of knowledge.”
The brand new, full-moon view is best for learning materials composition, whereas earlier half-moon views are higher for floor textures.
“With the half-moon views, we may see how tough or easy the floor is and the way it’s layered,” stated THEMIS co-investigator Dr. Joshua Bandfield, senior analysis scientist on the House Sciences Institute.
“Now we’re gathering knowledge on what minerals are in it, together with metals.”
Iron and nickel are two such metals. Relying on how plentiful the metals are, and the way they’re blended with different minerals, these knowledge may assist decide whether or not Phobos is a captured asteroid or a pile of Mars fragments, blasted into house by an enormous affect way back.
“These latest observations gained’t definitively clarify Phobos’ origin,” Dr. Bandfield stated.
However Odyssey is gathering very important knowledge on a moon scientists nonetheless know little about — one which future missions would possibly need to go to.
Human exploration of Phobos has been mentioned within the house group as a distant, future chance, and a Japanese sample-return mission to the tiny moon is scheduled for launch within the 2020s.
“By learning the floor options, we’re studying the place the rockiest spots on Phobos are and the place the superb, fluffy mud is,” Dr. Bandfield stated.
“Figuring out touchdown hazards and understanding the house atmosphere may assist future missions to land on the floor.”