Phobos: Doomed Moon of Mars

This moon is doomed. Mars, the red planet named for the Roman god of war, has two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos, whose names are derived from the Greek for Fear and Panic. These martian moons may well be captured asteroids originating in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or perhaps from even more distant reaches of our Solar System. The larger moon, Phobos, is indeed seen to be a cratered, asteroid-like object in this stunning color image from the robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, with objects as small as 10 meters visible. But Phobos orbits so close to Mars – about 5,800 kilometers above the surface compared to 400,000 kilometers for our Moon – that gravitational tidal forces are dragging it down. In perhaps 50 million years, Phobos is expected to disintegrate into a ring of debris. via NASA

Solargraphic Analemmas

For the northern hemisphere June 21 was the summer solstice, the Sun reaching its northernmost declination for the year. That would put it at the top of each of these three figure-8 curves, or analemmas, as it passed through the daytime sky over the village of Proboszczow, Poland. No sequence of digital exposures was used to construct the remarkable image though. Using a pinhole camera fixed to face south during the period June 26, 2021 to June 26, 2022, the image was formed directly on a single sheet of photographic paper, a technique known as solargraphy. The three analemmas are the result of briefly exposing the photo paper through the pinhole each day at 11:00, 12:00, and 13:00 CET. Groups of dashed lines on the sides show partial tracks of the Sun from daily exposures made every 15 minutes. Over the year-long solargraphic photo opportunity clouds blocking the Sun during the pinhole exposures created the dark gaps. via NASA

The Solar System s Planet Trails

Stars trail through a clear morning sky in this postcard from a rotating planet. The timelapse image is constructed from consecutive exposures made over nearly three hours with a camera fixed to a tripod beside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China on June 24. Arcing above the eastern horizon after the series of exposures began, a waning crescent Moon left the brightest streak and watery reflection. On that date the planets of the Solar System were also lined up along the ecliptic and left their own trails before sunrise. Saturn was first to rise on that morning and the ringed planet’s trail starts close to the top right edge, almost out of the frame. Innermost planet Mercury rose only just before the Sun though. It left the shortest trail, visible against the twilight near the horizon at the far left. Uranus and Neptune are faint and hard to find, but mingled with the star trails the Solar System’s planet trails are all labeled in the scene. via NASA

Comet C 2017 K2 (PanSTARRS)

Imaged on June 20 2022, comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) shares this wide telescopic field of view with open star cluster IC 4665 and bright star Beta Ophiuchi, near a starry edge of the Milky Way. On its maiden voyage to the inner Solar System from the dim and distant Oort cloud, this comet PanSTARRS was initially spotted over five years ago, in May 2017. Then it was the most distant active inbound comet ever found, discovered when it was some 2.4 billion kilometers from the Sun. That put it between the orbital distances of Uranus and Saturn. Hubble Space Telescope observations indicated the comet had a large nucleus less than 18 kilometers in diameter. Now visible in small telescopes C/2017 K2 will make its closest approach to planet Earth on July 14 and closest approach to the Sun this December. Its extended coma and developing tail are seen here at a distance of some 290 million kilometers, a mere 16 light-minutes away. via NASA