Right place, right time.
Spacecraft image credit: ESA/ATG medialab; Mars: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
From orbit, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft keeps a watchful eye on the Red Planet and its two moons.
NASA via Giphy
But that’s not all the orbiter can see.
Even though 463 million miles separate it from Jupiter, Mars Express occasionally gets a glimpse of the bright gas giant and its many moons.
The ESA released the footage this week, providing a stunning glimpse at the enigmatic planet and its satellites.
Here’s the footage captured by Mars Express:
Deimos first passes Europa and Ganymede to the left of Jupiter, then Io and Castillo to the right.
Mars Express took 80 individual images to capture the trajectory of Deimos.
It’s not often that Mars Express and Deimos meet, since their orbits are on very different planes. This video shows the orbiter’s trajectory in 2010, though it has shifted over time.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
It’s even more uncommon that all four of Jupiter’s moons would be aligned when Mars Express was near Deimos.
Spotting this rare pass helps researchers better predict the orbits of Jupiter and Mars’ moons — which is important for upcoming missions to the gas giant’s satellites.