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Illumination and Thermal Regimes on the Martian moon Phobos


For this project, image data of Phobos acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) (Jaumann et al., 2007) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft will be exploited. Mars Express is currently the only space probe to approach the Martian moon Phobos at close range on a regular basis delivering a wealth of image and other scientific data of Phobos. The collected data will be used to update the existing shape model (Willner et al., 2014) to higher precision and to improve the current knowledge of Phobos’ rotational parameters.

Phobos is orbiting Mars in a nearly equatorial plane while it is assumed that its rotational axis is perpendicular to this plane. As the Martian rotation axis is inclined with respect to the ecliptic plane, Phobos experiences seasonal illumination changes. It is expected that the polar areas are directly illuminated by the sun during the summer season. Phobos’ irregular shape produces complex patterns of illuminated and shadowed areas.

One goal is to create illumination maps that enable the analysis of diurnal and seasonal changes of incident light.

Moreover the thermal conditions on Phobos' surface resulting from solar radiation and thermal radiation emitted by Mars will be studied. Applying models for the local heat flux and the surface materials, the penetration depth of the diurnal and seasonal heat wave can be determined. Finally, it can be estimated at which depth suggested water ice reservoirs beneath Phobos' surface may be found.

This research project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (DFG) (FKZ OB 124/14-1).

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Contact Person

Prof. Jürgen Oberst
+49 30 314 79701
Room 2219