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Phobos photobombs Mars in Hubble view

Mars and Phobos
This multiple-exposure photo shows 22 minutes’ worth of Phobos’ orbit around Mars. (NASA / ESA / STScI Photo / Z. Levay)

Leave it to tiny Phobos to horn in on Mars’ glory in an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The view of the Red Planet and the larger of its two moons, released today, is actually a testament to the orbiting observatory’s sharper vision.

Phobos is an irregular hunk of rock and ice, measuring no more than 16.5 miles in diameter. It’s small enough to sit comfortably inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C. (although residents of the nation’s capital would be none too comfortable).

Despite its status as one of the solar system’s smallest moons, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 could pick out Phobos easily against the black background of space in a series of images acquired over the course of 22 minutes on May 12, 2016.

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‘Orbit-first’ Mars plan goes public: Will it fly?

Image: Mars as seen from Phobos
An artist’s conception shows as astronaut’s-eye view of Mars from Phobos. (Credit: Planetary Society)

The nonprofit Planetary Society has laid out a detailed blueprint for sending astronauts to the Martian moon Phobos in 2033 and then touching down on Mars itself beginning in 2039.

The blueprint released Tuesday is based on a “Humans Orbiting Mars” workshopthat was conducted in April – and it’s probably already out of date, due to last month’s announcement that NASA’s first crewed flight of the Orion deep-space capsule is likely to be put off until 2023. Nevertheless, the Planetary Society’s Casey Dreier says the full study can serve as a realistic yardstick for NASA’s Mars exploration timetable.

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