Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Phobos Up Close

Things are crazy at work since I'm leaving Friday afternoon for a week on business in the UK. So not much time to read or write about space developments, but I just had to mention the great shots of Phobos obtained recently by MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter). They even did some stereo imaging with pictures captured 10 minutes apart, and the red/blue 3D anaglyph is really spectacular, as are some of the crater Stickney details. As usual, Emily at the Planetary Society Weblog has detailed comments on the imagery.

Visually speaking (if your eyes were actually there), Phobos is quite a bit darker than shown in these images, as Emily explains. This picture (one of mine from Orbiter) demonstrates the contrast between Mars and Phobos. But whatever the color, the detail in the new images is really amazing.

One problem with these images is lack of scale. I tried to set up something in Orbiter with a space shuttle near Phobos to give some sense of scale, but the shuttle is just too small, and I couldn't get anything really useful. While Phobos is "tiny" by planetary standards, it's still quite a huge object. Note the 5 km scale bar in this older (c. 2006) image.

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