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Phobos photobombs Mars in Hubble view

21 Juillet 2017

Meant to capture Mars, the cameo appearance of Phobos, which is just 16.5 miles by 13.5 miles by 11 miles, was a bonus, NASA said in a statement. NASA finally releases the time-lapse image of the Martian satellite in orbit.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope took the images of Phobos orbiting Mars on May 12, 2016, when the planet was 50 million miles from Earth. The Hubble space telescope was observing and taking photos of Mars at that time because it was expected to orbit closer to Earth than it had in the past 11 years.

The photos, which have been rendered as a timelapse in order to show the movement of Phobos in the background, are great shots of the dusty planet, and helps put the diminutive size of Phobos into perspective.

Not wanting to feel left out, Phobos, which is one of the Red Planet's two moons, made a cameo appearance in the photoshoot.

Phobos is so small, in relation to the planet it orbits, it appears "star-like" in the Hubble pictures.

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It orbits so close to the Martian surface that the curvature of the planet would obscure its view from an observer standing in Mars' polar regions. Watch the video below. So on Mars, Phobos can be seen to rise above the western horizon 3 times a day. It's small enough to sit comfortably inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C.

Mars's natural satellite was first discovered by Asaph Hall on August 17, 1877. Phobos (panic or fear) and Deimos (terror or dread) accompanied their father into battle. The names are actually fitting because Mars is named after the Greek god of war Ares, who is known as Mars in Roman Mythology.

It is an unusual satellite, orbiting closer to its planet than any other moon in the Solar System. It's an extremely speedy moon, completing a full orbit of Mars in less than eight hours.

They predict that within 20 to 40 million years, it either will crash into the Red Planet or be torn to pieces and scattered as a ring around Mars.

Phobos photobombs Mars in Hubble view