Deimos is in the spotlight. The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Orbiter, part of the United Arab Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), flew just 100 kilometers from the surface of the red planet’s small moon and made very detailed observations.
Measurements included photography and ultraviolet and infrared observations, along with data on areas of Deimos that had never been explored in detail. All of this will allow the orbiter, which launched in July 2020 and entered orbit around Mars in February 2021, to reveal how Deimos and other larger Martian moons Phobos formed. I was.
“The origin of both is unknown,” said EMM Science Lead Hessa Al Matroushi in a statement. “One of the longstanding theories, he said, is that they are captured asteroids, but there are open questions about their composition.”
Orbiter observations of both moons indicate an explanation is unlikely. Their composition appears to be more similar to Mars than to asteroids, suggesting the idea that they formed either from Mars itself or from the same reservoir of planetary material.
Hope is in a unique position to observe Deimos in detail. While the rovers we send to Mars usually orbit relatively close to the planet to get an accurate view of its surface, Deimos orbits Mars at an average distance of 23,460 kilometers.
However, Hope Orbiter will have a wide orbit around Mars at an altitude of 20,000 to 43,000 kilometers, allowing it to observe large swaths of the Martian atmosphere at once. This allowed me to get up close and personal with Deimos.
Several more approaches to the moon are planned within the next year, so we need to get more clues about its composition and possible origins.
The mission was originally scheduled to last only one Martian year, or almost two Earth years, but the UAE recently announced it would be extended for another Earth year so it can continue its exploration of Mars and its moons.