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Mars and Deimos; terrestrial planet; telluric planet; rocky planet; moon - Space Art Illustration

Mars and Deimos

This is how Mars and its even smaller satellite Deimos might appear from a distance of about 100 miles from the surface of Deimos. In this image Deimos is passing over Acidalia Planitia, an albedo feature that has been observed by Earth-bound astronomers since the 19th century. To the southwest are the fog-filled canyons of Valles Marineris, the westernmost of which are still in darkness. Beyond Mars, immediately to the left of its night side, is Phobos at a distance of 20,000 miles. The two bright objects in the lower left are the stars Beta Gruis and Al Nair in the southern constellation Grus.

Like it's larger companion Phobos, Deimos does not possess enough mass to pull itself into a sphere; its shape instead is oblong with a length of about 10 miles and only 6 miles wide at its smallest dimension. Like Phobos, Deimos may be an asteroid long ago captured by Mars' gravity. Orbiting 14,600 miles above Mars' surface, Deimos completes one revolution every 30 hours.


What's in a name?

Deimos (Greek for terror/dread) is named after the son of Ares (Roman Mars) and Aphrodite (Roman Venus) from Greek Mythology. Deimos was discovered by American astronomer Asaph Hall in 1877.

Acidalia Planitia (Plains of Acidalia) is named after the mythical Acidalian (Venusian) fountain in Boeotia where the graces bathe.

In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli published the first detailed map of Mars based upon long hours at one of the most powerful telescopes of the time.  He named the broad martian features he observed using Latin and Mediterranean place names taken from ancient history, mythology, and the Bible.

Special thanks to James Hastings-Trew for his Mars & Moons digital data.

Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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