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UAE’s Hope Probe Unveils Mars’ Smaller Moon Deimos and Hints at Its Mysterious Origin

Photograph showing Mars and its moon Deimos. Emirates Mars Mission.

According to the "impact capture" hypothesis, Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos, were once asteroids captured by the planet's gravity after a massive impact event billions of years ago. But is this really the case?

New Data and Images Shed Light on Deimos’ Uncharted Side

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Hope spacecraft has captured never-before-seen images of Mars’ smaller moon, Deimos, providing valuable insights into its enigmatic origin.

Discovering the Unknown Side of Deimos

On Monday, the Emirates Mars Mission team released new data and images, showcasing an uncharted side of Deimos, Mars’ smaller moon. The Hope probe, which has been orbiting Mars since February 9, 2021, primarily studies the planet’s atmosphere and climate, focusing on weather patterns and climate changes. The spacecraft’s high-resolution camera, the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI), is occasionally used to photograph Mars’ moons from orbit.

A photograph of Mars' moon Deimos. Emirates Mars Mission.
A photograph of Mars’ moon Deimos. Emirates Mars Mission.

Hope Probe’s EXI Camera Reveals Indented Area and Craters

The newly released images from the Hope probe’s EXI camera display a large indented area on Deimos’ far side – the part facing away from Mars. This area is accompanied by several pocketed regions containing craters of varying sizes. During a series of fly-bys, the Hope orbiter approached as close as 100km (62 miles) to the moon’s surface.

Impact Capture Hypothesis and the Origin of Deimos

The widely accepted “impact capture” hypothesis suggests that Deimos and its sibling moon Phobos were formed billions of years ago as a result of a giant impact event. According to this theory, both moons were initially asteroids, later captured by Mars’ gravity and transformed into its satellites. Hessa Al Matroushi, Hope’s science lead, mentioned in an article published by The National that the close observations of Deimos hint at a planetary origin, contradicting the postulated composition of a type D asteroid.

Upcoming Fly-Bys in 2024 to Provide Further Insights

Additional fly-bys of Deimos are planned for 2024, which should continue to enhance our understanding of the moon’s origin and potentially unlock new knowledge about Mars’ satellites. The more data we gather from Mars, the easier it will be for humans to eventually colonize the planet in the near future.

And speaking of understanding Mars, a recent research paper unveiled that the red planet’s core is actually liquid. You can read more about it here.