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From its history, to its potential for being a base for humanity, and more! Join as us as we explore Phobos, Mars’ Moon!
7. History Of Phobos
Phobos was discovered by astronomer Asaph Hall on 18 August 1877, at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., at about 09:14 Greenwich Mean Time (contemporary sources, using the pre-1925 astronomical convention that began the day at noon, give the time of discovery as 17 August at 16:06 Washington mean time, meaning 18 August 04:06 in the modern convention).
Hall had discovered Deimos, Mars’s other moon, a few days earlier on 12 August 1877 at about 07:48 UTC. The names, originally spelled Phobus and Deimus respectively, were suggested by Henry Madan (1838–1901), science master at Eton College, based on Greek mythology, in which Phobos is a companion to the god Ares.
Speculation about the existence of the moons of Mars had begun when the moons of Jupiter were discovered. When Galileo Galilei, as a hidden report about him having observed two bumps on the sides of Saturn (later discovered to be its rings).
Hall recorded his discovery of Phobos in his notebook as follows:
“I repeated the examination in the early part of the night of 11th [August 1877], and again found nothing, but trying again some hours later I found a faint object on the following side and a little north of the planet. I had barely time to secure an observation of its position when fog from the River stopped the work. This was at half past two o’clock on the night of the 11th. Cloudy weather intervened for several days.
On 15 August the weather looking more promising, I slept at the Observatory. The sky cleared off with a thunderstorm at 11 o’clock and the search was resumed. The atmosphere however was in a very bad condition and Mars was so blazing and unsteady that nothing could be seen of the object, which we now know was at that time so near the planet as to be invisible.
On 16 August the object was found again on the following side of the planet, and the observations of that night showed that it was moving with the planet, and if a satellite, was near one of its elongations. Until this time I had said nothing to anyone at the Observatory of my search for a satellite of Mars, but on leaving the observatory after these observations of the 16th, at about three o’clock in the morning, I told my assistant, George Anderson, to whom I had shown the object, that I thought I had discovered a satellite of Mars. I told him also to keep quiet as I did not wish anything said until the matter was beyond doubt. He said nothing, but the thing was too good to keep and I let it out myself. On 17 August between one and two o’clock, while I was reducing my observations, Professor Newcomb came into my room to eat his lunch and I showed him my measures of the faint object near Mars which proved that it was moving with the planet.
On 17 August while waiting and watching for the outer moon, the inner one was discovered. The observations of the 17th and 18th put beyond doubt the character of these objects and the discovery was publicly announced by Admiral Rodgers.”
6. Orbits and Rotations
The orbital motion of Phobos has been intensively studied, making it “the best studied natural satellite in the Solar System” in terms of orbits completed. Its close orbit around Mars produces some unusual effects. With an altitude of 5,989 km (3,721 mi), Phobos orbits Mars below the synchronous orbit radius, meaning that it moves around Mars faster than Mars itself rotates.
Therefore, from the point of view of an observer on the surface of Mars, it rises in the west, moves comparatively rapidly across the sky (in 4 h 15 min or less) and sets in the east, approximately twice each Martian day (every 11 h 6 min). Because it is close to the surface and in an equatorial orbit, it cannot be seen above the horizon from latitudes greater than 70.4°. Its orbit is so low that its angular diameter, as seen by an observer on Mars, varies visibly with its position in the sky. Seen at the horizon, Phobos is about 0.14° wide; at zenith it is 0.20°, one-third as wide as the full Moon as seen from Earth.
credits: esa/ dlr/fu berlin/J. cowart, cc by-sa 3.0 igo
credits: nasa/jpl/malin space science systems
credits: wiking project/ nasa/jpl/ justin cowart
credits: kevin m.gill
credits: nasa/jpl caltech/university of arizona
credits: nasa/ jpl-caltech/malin space science systems/ texas a&m univ.
credits: esa/dlr/ fd berlin (g.neukum), cc by-sa 3.0 igo
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