Over the next few weeks, the European probe Mars Express will be making a series of close passes to the Martian moon Phobos, a wrecked potato that has had an extensively battered history. In January, ME got this shot (among others):
You can see that this little moon has been kicked around quite a bit. Those parallel grooves are still a bit of a mystery; they are most likely cracks that formed when Phobos got whacked, creating the 10-km-wide crater Stickney on one end, but that matter is not 100% settled. Maybe these new observations will help end the debate. [UPDATE: Commenter Big Bob points out that the cracks are most likely not due to the Stickney impact! I haven’t kept up on my Phobos groovy research, obviously. Also, in the next bit I say more images are coming, but in fact this close passage of Phobos will not yield very high-res pictures, because this flyby is to measure the gravity field around Mars, and the other instruments — including the cameras — must be turned off. Oh well.]
And as nice as this image is, we’ll be getting lots better ones soon! So this is a heads-up: closest approach is on March 3, so stayed tuned for more pictures. I’ll post ‘em as I see ‘em.
1) The new Carnival of Space is up at Lab Lemming’s tent, and it’s a BIG tent.
2) Emily has news that Phobos is a bit lighter than previously thought. What a pile.
3) Emily also has some nifty new MESSENGER images explained. I’ve been too lazy to deal with that.
4) This is dumb. So why did it make me smile so much? Oh right: I’m a dork.