Its largest ever moon image features jaw-dropping detail

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As if to celebrate its second launch anniversary, Tianwen-1, China’s National Space Administration’s first Mars probe, has sent a stunningly detailed snapshot to Phobos. It is the largest Martian moon, famous for its potato shape. This quality image provides valuable information for scientists to study the topography and environment of Phobos, bringing China one step closer to its goal of exploring the planet, competing with the United States.

The Tianwen-1 mission, launched on July 23, 2020, was a great success for the China National Space Administration. The probe carried a lander and the Zhurong rover to Mars, making China the second country after the United States to successfully operate a rover on the planet’s surface. Conversely, the American machine, curiosity and perseverance, Zhurong does not have a robotic hand. Its telescopic micro-imaging camera or SWIR (short-wave infrared) spectrometer is used to study minerals present on the Martian surface.

The Tianwen-1 probe entered Mars orbit in February 2021 and the rover landed on the planet to begin operations in May 2021. Nevertheless, due to the decrease in temperature during the Martian winter as well as the bad weather conditions of sand and dust, the latter entered a “hibernation” mode on May 18. Its revival is expected in December, when the landing zone enters the Martian spring, bringing better weather.

Recently, the Chinese probe has provided stunning images of the entire surface of Mars, including its surroundings, in the last two years, completing all the tasks assigned for it. To celebrate two years since its successful launch, the Chinese space agency has released the most detailed snapshot to date of Phobos, two of Mars’ moons, via news agency. Xinhua.

Revealing photos of the origin of Phobos?

The origin of the natural satellites of Mars is still debated in the scientific community. Moreover, in 2018, an international team of researchers proposed a new hypothesis, published Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. The authors advanced the argument that Mars collided with a giant celestial body as the origin of Phobos and Deimos. This collision with an object the size of Ceres (the only dwarf planet in the orbiting asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter) sent rocky and dusty debris into space. This debris was then gathered by the red planet’s gravitational influence to form Phobos and Deimos.

You should know that Phobos – with an average diameter of 22 kilometers – is characterized by impact grooves and “grooves”. Traveling 6000 km above the surface of Mars, it is the closest satellite to its planet, in the entire solar system, much closer than Deimos or even our Moon – the Earth-Moon distance is 384,400 km. Phobos orbited Mars in just 7 hours and 39 minutes.

The Tianwen-1 operations team captured the moment when the orbital probe was close to Phobos, with accurate orientation. Thus, he got a clear image of the satellite.” full moon China’s National Space Administration said.

The image released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and China Planetary Exploration (PEC) will help to study Phobos’ topography in depth and learn more about its history. Moreover, in the photograph, the company detects a circular shaped OPIC hole. Its name honors Estonian astronomer and astrophysicist Ernst Opik, who hypothesized a cloud of comets and icy bodies beyond Pluto and the Kuiper Belt — now known as the Cloud. From Öpik-Oort. He predicted, as early as 1922, impact craters present on Mars.

A sealed fate for Phobos

A few days after the discovery of Deimos, American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered Phobos on August 18, 1877. Its surface is covered in a layer of dust about a meter thick and dotted with craters and scars caused by meteorite impacts. The best known is Stickney Crater, named after Asaph Hall’s wife Angeline Stickney and reaching a diameter of 9.5 km. First, scientists hypothesized that the other lines represented the start of multiple breaks in this satellite. But, currently, they’ll be angling for small chunks of Mars attracted by Phobos, coming in to hit later. Moreover, the Chinese agency also concluded that the lines on the surface of Phobos in the upper left of the photo may have been formed by these effects. The most recent grooves are called stretchmarks by researchers.

But Phoebe’s fate seems sealed. Indeed, in April 2022, NASA reported in a press release: “ Scientists already know that Phobos is doomed: the moon is closing in on the surface of Mars and will crash into the planet in a few million years. “This is how the Martian satellite will come closer to Mars by about two meters every hundred years under the influence of gravity.

The orbiting probe will continue testing and prepare for future missions, the space agency said. Note that with Tianwen-1, China was the first country to attempt to send both a probe and a rover on its maiden mission to Mars. NASA sent several probes around Mars before attempting to land.

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