Mars Moon Phobos Sails by Jupiter

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Think the lunar eclipse was cool? Well, check out the view from Europe’s Mars Express, which is the only known witness to a recent eclipse of Jupiter by the Martian moon Phobos.

Spacecraft operators set up the shoot with a special maneuver to position their Mars-orbiting probe to capture the moment on June 1 when Phobos, a small moon of Mars, would align with Jupiter. At the time of the encounter, Mars Express was 11,389 kilometers (7,077 miles) from Phobos, with Jupiter another 529 million kilometers (329 million miles) beyond.

BIG PIC: Spacecraft Buzzes Martian Moon Phobos

The spacecraft fixed its high-resolution stereo camera on Jupiter and snapped 104 pictures over 68 seconds. The images and a movie were released Friday.

“By knowing the exact moment when Jupiter passed behind Phobos, the observation will help to verify and even improve our knowledge of the orbital position of the Martian moon,” the European Space Agency said in a press release.

ANALYSIS: Twin Moons Above Mars

If ESA feels like sharing, Russia might be interested in the data. It is preparing to send a lander to Phobos to scoop up a bit of soil and return it to Earth. The mission, called Fobos-Grunt (Russian for “Phobos-Soil”) is a joint project with China, which will be launching a Mars orbiter named Yinghuo-1 on the same rocket. Launch is scheduled for late this year. You can read more about the project here.

Image: Conjuncture: Before, during and after eclipse of Jupiter by Mars moon Phobos. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

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