Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2013 December 25

Phobos 360
Video Credit: Mars Express, ESA

Explanation: What does the Martian moon Phobos look like? To better visualize this unusual object, images from ESA's Mars Express orbiter have been combined into a virtual rotation movie. The rotation is actually a digital illusion -- tidally-locked Phobos always keeps the same face toward its home planet, as does Earth's moon. The above video highlights Phobos' chunky shape and an unusually dark surface covered with craters and grooves. What lies beneath the surface is a topic of research since the moon is not dense enough to be filled with solid rock. Phobos is losing about of centimeter of altitude a year and is expected to break up and crash onto Mars within the next 50 million years. To better understand this unusual world, Mars Express is on course to make the closest flyby ever on Sunday.

Tomorrow's picture: open space

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | RSS | Education | About APOD | Discuss | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
NASA Web Privacy Policy and Important Notices
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.