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Mars’ small moon Deimos, seen up close by the UAE space probe

The UAE Mars space probe, which has been orbiting the red planet for two years, has monitored its small moon Deimos with unparalleled accuracy, shedding new light on the origins of this mysterious satellite of Mars.

The “Hope” or “Hope” probe (“Hope” in French), the first Arab interplanetary mission, was able to fly less than 110 kilometers from Deimos, an irregular rocky body no more than 12 kilometers long in the shape of a bean. Which, along with its larger companion Phobos, is one of the two moons of Mars.

This is the first time since the Mars Viking mission in 1977 that a spacecraft has flown so closely over this rarely observed natural satellite, officials with the Emirates Exploration Mars Mission (EMM) noted Monday during a meeting of the European Geosciences Union. . place in Vienna.

During flybys of Deimos, which began this past January, Hope was able to make observations with unparalleled accuracy, particularly thanks to the EXI camera, which provides high-resolution color images in multiple wavelengths.

These data revealed the “dark side” of the small moon orbiting 23,000 km from Mars, whose composition has never been studied.

“We are unsure of the origins of Phobos and Deimos,” Hessa Al Matrooshi, chief scientist for the EMM mission, said in a statement.

“The old theory is that these are asteroids” from the asteroid belt that were “captured” in the orbit of the Red Planet, it developed.

But the Hope probe’s careful observations lean somewhat towards a planetary origin. The orb, like its companion Phobos, already has “infrared properties closer to the basaltic rocks of Mars than to those of the meteorite that fell near Tagish Lake” in Canada, “often used in measurement to study Phobos and Deimos,” according to Christopher Edwards, a scientist EMIRS tools.

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UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeted a photo of Deimos. The moon, the rover writes, was once part of Mars, “separated from it millions of years ago.”

Hope will continue its flyby of Deimos throughout 2023 to collect more data, and identifies the United Arab Emirates space agency, which has decided to extend the Mars mission for an additional year.

In February 2021, the United Arab Emirates put the “Hope” probe into orbit around Mars, thus becoming the first Arab country to achieve this achievement.

The wealthy Gulf state also plans to send an unmanned rover to the moon by 2024.