S u m m a r y :
Tiny Martian moon Phobos has been captured in image by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope which was only meant to be photographing the planet. Find the press release here.
Phobos, A Potato in Space
Phobos orbits the red planet in only 7 hours and 39 minutes at a rate faster than the rotation of its own host. It is the innermost moon of Mars, with a dimension of 27 × 22 × 18 km. What makes it even more interesting is that it looks like a potato in shape.
It is believed that the moon’s orbit is slowing decreasing in size; this means that Phobos will most likely end up crashed onto the surface of Mars or torn apart from the gravitational force exerted onto it by its planet.
Phobos Cameo Appearance!
Hubble Space Telescope of NASA was busy photographing Mars when, lo and behold, it caught a glimpse of potato-shaped Phobos! Hubble managed to get 13 different exposures within 22 minutes, and a time-lapse video was, hence, made to depict the orbital path of the moon.
The images of Phobos were taken on May 12, 2016. At that time, last year, Mars was at a distance of around 80 million km from Earth, only few days before it was at its closest to our planet compared to what it has been in the past decade.
Phobos’ Past & Future
Phobos was discovered back in 1877 at the U.S. Naval Observatory based in Washington, DC, by Asaph Hall who was searching for Martian moons. Hall later also found the smaller, outer moon of the red planet, Deimos.
Mars’ gravity is gradually tearing Phobos apart. The latter sports long and shallow dents on its surface that are the result of tidal interactions with its planet to which it is approaching more and more, at around 2 metres every century. Its destruction is scheduled for 30 to 50 million years from now. It is suspected that it might become a ring around Mars at its death.