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Journal Articles Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A Year : 2024

Phobos photometric properties from Mars Express HRSC observations


This study aims to analyze Phobos’ photometric properties using Mars Express mission observations to support the Martian Moons eXploration mission (MMX) devoted to the investigation of the Martian system and to the return of Phobos samples. Methods. We analyzed resolved images of Phobos acquired between 2004 and 2022 by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board the Mars Express spacecraft at a resolution ranging from ∼ 30 m px−1 to 330 m px−1. We used data acquired with the blue, green, red, and IR filters of HRSC and the panchromatic data of the Super Resolution Channel (SRC). The SRC data are unique because they cover small phase angles (0.2-10o), permitting the investigation of the Phobos opposition effect. We simulated illumination and geometric conditions for the different observations using the Marx Express and the camera spice kernels provided by the HRSC team. We performed photometric analysis using the Hapke model for both integrated and disk-resolved data. Results. The Phobos phase function is characterized by a strong opposition effect due to shadow hiding, with an amplitude and a half- width of the opposition surge of 2.28±0.03 and 0.0573±0.0001, respectively. Overall, the surface of Phobos is dark, with a geometric albedo of 6.8 % in the green filter and backscattering. Its single-scattering albedo (SSA) value (7.2% in the green filter) is much higher than what has been found for primitive asteroids and cometary nuclei and is close to the values reported in the literature for Ceres. We also found a surface porosity of 87%, indicating the presence of a thick dust mantle or of fractal aggregates on the top surface. The SSA maps revealed high reflectance variability, with the blue unit area in the northeast Stickney rim being up to 65% brighter than average, while the Stickney floor is among the darkest regions, with reflectance 10 to 20% lower than average. Photometric modeling of the regions of interest selected in the red and blue units indicates that red unit terrains have a stronger opposition effect and a smaller SSA value than the blue ones, but they have similar porosity and backscattering properties. Conclusions. The HRSC data provide a unique investigation of the Phobos phase function and opposition surge, which is valuable information for the MMX observational planning. The Phobos opposition surge, surface porosity, phase integral, and spectral slope are very similar to the values observed for the comet 67P and for Jupiter family comets in general. Based on these similarities, we formulate a hypothesis that the Mars satellites might be the results of a binary or bilobated comet captured by Mars.
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Dates and versions

insu-04520742 , version 1 (25-03-2024)
insu-04520742 , version 2 (13-06-2024)




S Fornasier, A Wargnier, P H Hasselmann, D Tirsch, K.-D Matz, et al.. Phobos photometric properties from Mars Express HRSC observations. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, 2024, 686, pp.A203. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/202449220⟩. ⟨insu-04520742v2⟩
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