NASA's orbiter Odyssey finally captured the view of Phobos in full moon. The thermal image of the Martian moon looked a lot like colorful candy.
Odyssey's heat-vision camera called Thermal Emission Imaging System can detect varying surface temperatures as Phobos orbits Mars every seven hours. Each observation of the Phobos is taken from a slightly different angle and time of day, providing a new kind of data. Various minerals and textures determine the amount of heat that the THEMIS detects.
Colors Signal Heat
On April 24, THEMIS observed Phobos directly, and at that specific time, the sun was positioned behind the orbiter, fully illuminating the Martian satellite. It was the first time that THEMIS was used to observe Phobos while in a full moon phase.
The outer band showed blue and green hues, followed with yellow to orange tints. Color red filled the center of the thermal image. Each color represents a different temperature range, with the warmest in the center and coolest on the outer edge.
"This new image is a kind of temperature bullseye — warmest in the middle and gradually cooler moving out," said Jeffrey Plaut, Odyssey project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
A view of the full moon could help scientists understand what materials make up the Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons, while half-moon views provide information on surface textures.
Phobos is larger than Deimos and has a radius of over 6.8 miles or 11 kilometers. This new information from Odyssey could help scientists further study the composition and origin of Phobos.
NASA also released a moving image of the Martian moon as viewed on visible light by the Odyssey.
Odyssey Mission And THEMIS Investigation
The Mars Odyssey orbiter is the longest-lasting spacecraft on the Red Planet. It has been collecting important data and capturing images of the Martian surface for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. It launched on April 7, 2001, and arrived at Mars on Oct. 24, 2001. One of its important missions is to detect water and shallow buried ice on Mars and study the radiation environment.
Odyssey found evidence of water on Mars located in the upper meter of the planet's surface. It is also known for making the most accurate map of Mars. It mapped the abundance of water as well as the presence of the mineral hematite, which usually forms in water. The orbiter's discovery of hematite in 2004 led to the choosing of a landing site for Mars exploration rover Opportunity.
The orbiter also served as an important communications relay between Mars and Earth and other robotic explorers. The Odyssey has completed its science mission from February 2002 to August 2004. It is on extended operations in Mars until today.
The THEMIS is one of the three major instruments used by the Odyssey, together with the Gamma Ray Spectrometer and Mars Radiation Environment Experiment.