Martian Moon Phobos in Technicolor

Six images of the Martian moon Phobos captured by NASA's Odyssey spacecraft. Three new images were released this month, giving scientists a fuller picture of Phobos' surface as it waxes and wanes. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / NAU)

NASA Releases Rainbow-Colored Images of Martian Moon Phobos

by Nora McGreevy/

Three newly released images of Mars’ moon Phobos resemble brightly colored candies—and could lead to some sweet discoveries, too.

NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft captured these new images, with rainbow hues indicating temperature variations on the planet, according to a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Using Odyssey’s infrared camera—a device known as is Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS)—scientists took three pictures of the small moon in December 2019, and February and March 2020.

The December image captures Phobos at full-moon phase, when a large part of its surface is exposed to the sun and temperatures can rise as high as 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The February image shows Phobos eclipsed by Mars’ shadow entirely, when temperatures plunge to minus 189 degrees Fahrenheit, and the March image captures the moon in its waxing phase.

Scientists paired these new images with three other thermal images of Phobos taken from 2018 to 2019. Taken together, all six images show how Phobos’ temperatures change as it waxes and wanes over time. These are the highest resolution thermal images ever taken of Phobos’ surface, Bruce Dorminey reports for Forbes.

Mars has two moons: Deimos and Phobos. At just 16 miles across, Phobos is bigger than Deimos, but still relatively small more:

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