LAST YEAR, EUROPE’S MARS EXPRESS spacecraft—in orbit around Mars—underwent a special manoeuvre to observe a conjunction between Jupiter and the larger of Mars’ two moons, Phobos. A conjunction is when two unrelated astronomical bodies appear to line up in the sky.
This sequence of images shows Phobos moving from right to left through the camera’s field of view and then disappearing from the field of view. At the moment when Mars Express, Phobos and Jupiter were in a line, Phobos was 11,389 km from the spacecraft, while Jupiter was more than 529,000,000 km away.
Because Jupiter was nearly 50,000 times as far away as Phobos, the largest planet in the Solar System (140,000 km in diameter) appears much smaller than the Martian moon.
While Mars Express and Phobos were both moving through space, the spacecraft’s camera was fixed on Jupiter. The sequence includes a total of 104 individual images that were taken over a span of 68 seconds.
Adapted from information issued by ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum).
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